Social influence

  • Created by: mayaclift
  • Created on: 12-03-19 19:03

Types of conformity


Definition = 'yeilding to group pressure'

COMPLIANCE = changing our behaviour to that of the majority but privately maintaining our own views. e.g. pretending to support a different team to fit in with the group. 
Supported by asch. 

INTERNILISATION = going along with the group but are happy to do so. e.g. conforming to the behaviours shown by a religious group as you had been converted to their beleifs. 
suppoted by sherif.

IDENTIFICATION = confroming to a social role we have taken on. e.g. being a prison guard, but not showing these behaviours when at home.
Supported by Zimbardo. 

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Aschs research into conformity

Aims = to see if people would choose an obviously wrong answer just to conform, using an unambiguos task. 

How it was carried out

  • 50 male american college students were used.
  • seated 6 at a table with particapant sat last but one.
  • they were shown a card with lines on and had to say which line was the same as the test line
  • There were 18 trial cards, with 12 of them 'critical trials', where the confederate gave the wrong answer

Findings = 32% gave the wrong answer on critical trials, 74% conformed at least once, 26% never conformed.

Conclusion = the pressure to conform is strong, reasons were because they wanted to be accepted  by the group, or didnt understand the question

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Evaluation of aschs research

STRENGTH = extremely influential in terms of how conformity is understood. It has helped researchers to this day, and has allowed them to understand the pressure people feel to fit in. 

LIMITATION = low population validity = it was carried out on a limited sample as all participants were American, so may not apply cross culturally. Bond and smith carried out a meta analysis of 133 studies from 17 countries using asch paradigm. They found much higher rates in collectivist cultures compared to individualistic cultures. 

LIMITATION = low temporal validity = may not apply to modern times. The study was carried out in the 'macarthyism' era. This is when communism was feared and communists could face jail. Perrin and Spencer replicated aschs study on university students and found conformity on only 1 in 396 trials.

LIMITATION = ethical concerns = the participants were decieved in that they were told they were taking part in a visual judgement. They were also decieved  by the nature of the set up as they thought all of them were participants. This couldve led to mild physiological harm. 

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Other research into conformity

Jenness = asked particiapnts to estimate how many jelly beans were in a jar. Participants gave their first thoughts then discussed their answers as a group. They found that the group moved towards a general concensus, which shows that people will conform in difficult tasks. Which is an example of informational social influence.

Sherif = used autokinetic effect to study conformity. This is a visual illusion where a dot of light is shone on the wall in a pitch black room and it appears to move. They asked particiapnts to estimate how far it moved. They all gave their answers individually and then did it it groups aswell. They found that they soon forgot about their onw answer and moved towards a general concensus. Which is an example of informational social influence.

Crutchfield = carried out research similar to Aschs paradigm. He used clear right or wrong questions. He tested over 600 participants in groups of 5 at a time. They each sat in a booth, and the participant was always the last one to answer so they could see everybody elses responses. Despite having more privacy conformity rates were still high. It was found that this was because the participants didnt feel comfortable giving a different answer which is normative social influence.

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Variables affecting conformity

Group size = It was found by asch that the larger the group, the highr the conformity rate. However this only happened to a point when the rates plateaued around 3 confederates and peaked at around 7 participants. This is due to the fact that it is much easier to disagree with one person compared to a large group. But doesnt rise over around 7 as they become to get suspicious.

Unanimity = In aschs variations he looked to see the effect of adding an ally. It was found that just the presence of one ally caused conformity rates to decrease from 32% to 5.5%. it was also found that they didnt have to agree with the participants, as long as they disagree with the majority the conformity rate was still much lower.

Task difficulty = it has been found that the harder the task the higher the conformity rates. Asch investigated this statement by making his lines more similar so it was more difficult to tell the difference. Which indeed caused conformity rates to increase which could be due to informational social influence, as the participants genuinely may not know the correct answer.

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Explanations for conformity

Normative social influence = people conform as they want to be liked. They dont want to be rejected by the group or stand out in any way. Which is often related to compliance as people saying and doing things they dont believe in.
EVALUATION = supported by Asch. In this study participants were given a task with a very obvious answer. 74% conformed to the group by giving the obviously wrong answer at least once. When asked why they did this it was found that it was because they didnt want to stand out from the group.

Informational social influence = this states that people when they genuinely dont know the correct answer or the correct way to act. This means that they look to others for information. Which occurs hand in hand with internilisation as they are unsure on the corrcect way to act or answer. 
EVALUATION = Sherif supports this as his study involves shining a light in the pitch black room. When asked how far the light moved participants had to guess individulaly but were happy to change their response to fit with the group later on. They didnt do this out of the need to be accepted but thought that the group answer was probably the correct one.

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-set up a mock prison in Stanford Univeristy. He was paying the $15 a day for 1-2 weeks. 
- he was wanting to find out what caused guard brutality in prisons (conforming to social roles).
-24 american and candanian college students were shortlisted, 18 of them were used as either guard or prisoner, and it was determined by flipping a coin. 
GUARDS = were in a khaki uniform and had mirrored sunglasses to hide their eyes (anonymity)
PRISONERS = unexpectedly arrested at their homes. They were given a white smock and a number, and were made to wear a heavy chain around their ankle.

Findings = they found that from the very start they were conforming to the social roles. They also found that some took it too far, as it caused psychological distress. Also the relatives of the prisoners who came on visiting day also conformed. They also found that when the prisoners were to send a letter home that they signed it with their number not their real name. 

+ helpful in explaining cases of ordinary people commiting terrible acts, such as soldiers.
- his methodology = never had variable to test and everything happened spur of the moment.
- ethics = he didnt protect the participants, the test ended early but still had significant effects.
- unreliable = Richer and Haslam carried our a similar study and found that they didnt conform. 

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BBC prison study - Reicher and Haslam

- They wanted to see whether groups could rise against the oppressors (guards).
-it was filmed by the BBC but there was full scientific control.
- the final sample was of 15 well adjusted men. They were divided into groups of 3 by their personality, one from each group of the guard and the other two were the prisoners.

Conclusion = people don't always confrom to their social roles if they dont identify with their role. The part of identification comes from the level of social interaction felt with others in the group.

+ controlled = they put great thought into the allocation of the men and of the people they selected.
- it shows oppression of the weaker group, and that those in least people can gain control.
- They knew they experiment was being filmed so would've acted in a way they wanted to be portrayed by on tv.
+ more ethical as they had controlled variable and had psychologists on standby the whole time. 

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Conformity vs obedience

- the people who influence us are our peers.
- we conform as we want to be accepted or because they provide us with important information.
- no one tells us to do something. 

- The people who influence are those in authority.
- We obey because we accpet that is society is organised in a heirachy.
- The authority figure orders us to do something.

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Aim = he proposed a hypothesis that no other country was like Germany, and wouldnt obey orders in the ways germans did in WW2.

Procedures = an advert was placed in the newspaper, stating that they would be taking part in a memory test which wasnt true. They were met by an experimentor and another man known as Mr Wallace who they believed to be a fellow participant and who had a heart condition. They were then selected one as learner and one as teacher but it was rigged for the real participant to always be the teacher. The participant was then given a list of words to read to the learner and everytime they got the question wrong they were to give an electric shock to the learner, which werent actually getting shocked, and there was a pre recorded video of what they would say if they were. The volts went from 75 to 450 which is said to be death. 

Findings = the participants shows extreme anguish, twitched sweated, bit their nails and lips, nervous laughter and 3 participants had seizures. Every particiant went up to 300 volts, 65% went up to 450 volts. 

Conclusions = under certain circumstances people will obey orders that go against their conscience, when people are in a position of authority they lose empathy and compassion. 

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Milgrams later studies

Milgram was interested in finding why people obeyed so changed the variables to test different factors:

The percentage of people going up to 450 volts:

Teacher choses shock level = 3%
Teacher sees two other teachers rebel = 10%
Experimenter leaves and ordinary person gives orders = 20%
Experimenter leaves and gives orders by phone = 23%
Teacher forcing learners hand onto shock plate = 30%
Teaher and learner in same room = 40%
Office building instead of university = 48%
Original setup = 65%

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Milgram Evaluation

Strength = it gave us an insight into human behaviour =  before the study he asked a group of proffessional psychiatrists and psychologists how many people they thought would go to 450 volts, the average answer was between 1-2%. But the fact that 65% did shows that milgram was wrong and that all nations have the potential to harm someone when told to do so.

Limitation = ETHICS =
-deception = participants were lied to at every stage of the study. 
-Lack of informed concent = They didnt know the true nature of the study so didnt give their full consent on what was actually going to happen. But it was impossible to get informed consent as if they knew what was really going to happen they wouldve shown demand characteristics and  jeoparadised the validity.
-Right to withdraw = it was possible for them to withdraw but was not made easy for them (verbal prods) so didnt show whether it was fully available to actually withdraw.  

Limitation = Low internal validity = orne and hollands argued that milgrams studies werent measuring what they were trying to measure so he wasnt measuring the true rates of obedience. 

Limitation = low ecological validity = it isnt representitive of everyday tasks (Hofling et al hospital)

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Explanations of obedience

Agentic state and legitimacy of authority = Milgram believes that there are two states which we can be in. The first is the autonomous state which is when we do as we wish and our decisions are made based on our own beliefs and desires. The second is agentic state. This is when we dont act of our free will and see ourselves as 'agents' of others. 

proximity = how close we are to something = when someone gives us a direct order to our face it is hard to resist. Obedience rates dropped from 65% to 23% when orders were given by phone. We are also likely to obey orders when we cant see the harm we are doing. 
location = Orders given in an organisation are more likely to be followed as it seems more legitimate. In milgrams research when the location was changed to a run down office block obedience dropped from 65% to 48%.
Uniform = we are more likely to obey those who appearance idicates that they authority e.g. a high vis vest. 

Authoritarian personality = the have a need to obey, rigidly follow rules, hostile and believe rule breaking should be punsihed. Adorno et al = develops as a result of strict parents. 

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Explanations of resistance to social influence: so

Effect on conformity = unaminity 

Effects on obedience =
Milgram = found that altering the experiment to having an ally reduced rates of bedience. In one variation Milgram had two confederates sit with a genuine participant. The first one refused to administer electric shocks beyond 150 and the second confederate refused to give shocks beyond 250. Influenced by this only 10% went up to 450 compared to the 65% in the original study. 
Mullen et al = also provides further support. They carried out a meta analysis of research on jaywalking. They found that obedience decreased when exposed to other jaywalkers so didnt follow the signs to 'walk' or 'dont walk'. 

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Explanations of resistance to social influence: lo

Definition = is the extent to which we feel in control and responsible for the things that happen in our life. 
internal locus of control = we take full responsibility for the outcome of their actions. Dont rely on the opinions of others and are more likely to be leaders. 
External locus of control = blame others when things go wrong. They see life as being something that just 'happens' and believe in luck. 

How is it measured = rotter = developed a questionnaire with questions that are aimed to figure out their locus of control. For every statement reflecting external locus they are given a mark.

  • those with external locus of control are more likely to conform or obey where as those with an internal locus are more likely to resist social influence.


Holland = categorised pariticpants and found 37% were internals, 23% externals in milgrams study.
Schurz = did a similar study to milgram using ultrasound and found 80% went to the highest level.
Avtgis = meta analysis looking at all studies found positive correlation between locus rates (0.37).
Williams and warchal = looked at locus and conformity using an asch type study, goes against. 

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Minority influence

Consistency = the minority keeping the same message and must be an agreed message as if there was disagreement people would be less likely to listen as it doesnt show confidence.
Moscovici = they split 128 female participants into 32 groups 4 with 2 confederates. They were shown 36 blue slides with varying intensity covers. The confederates were told to say the slides were green, it was found 32% of the participants were influenced and answered green at least once.

Flexibility = If minority is too consistent it will not be successful because it is interpreted as rigid so making it seem unreasonable and extreme. So need to comprimise.
Nemeth = modified moscivicis study they had the confederates change between being consistentely green and then mixed between blue and green slides and was found that being between green and blue slides had greatest minority influence.

Commitment = it shows that they are fighting for a cause worth believing in.
Maass and clark = found that gay a gay minority argueing for gay rights was seen to have more self interest and be less persuasive then heterosexual minority argueing for the same cause.

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Social influence in social change

Examples = womans right to vote, same sex marriage.

They can bring social influence if the following factors are present:

  • Consitency = we are more likely to listen to a group who dont falter from their beleifs e.g. the civil rights movement.
  • Flexibility = sometimes comprimises need to be made to work towards the end goal, giving step by step stages to allow for progress to be made.
  • Long term exposure = they need to be around for a long time for people to listen to them, as repition of a long period of time will allow people to question their own beliefs.
  • Snowball effect = minorities start off as a small group but over time people slowely 'convert' their opinions so they grow, so more and more people join and it eventually becomes a majority.
  • psychosocial identity = if we belong with the group we are more likely to listen, we need to feel a connection to the cause.
  • social crypto amnesia = once it has turned to a majority we forget where the original idea came from.
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