Social Influence

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  • Created on: 27-05-13 16:32

Asch (1951)

Aim to see if participants would conform to majority social influence and give incorrect answers in a sutuation where the correct answers were always obvious.
 7 male participants - 1 genuine, the rest confederates were shown 2 cards: the 'test card' showing one vertical line and another card showing 3 lines of different lengths, one of which identical to the first. The participants were then asked in turn to call out which of the 3 lines was the same length as the test line. The genuine participant was the 2nd
 to last one to answer. Confederates gave unanimous wrong results on 12 of the 18 trials, known as the ‘critical’ trials.
Findings Participants conformed to the unanimous incorrect answer on 32% of the critical trials. 74% of participants conformed at least one. 26% of participants never conformed as they were either confident or could resist the pressure. Post-experiment interviews found: some participants had seen the line identified as correct, said the wrong answer as they didn’t want to be a minority but most experienced a distortion of judgement where they thought their perception of the line was inaccurate.
Conclusion Even in unambiguous situations, there may be strong group pressure to conform, especially if the group is a unanimous majority.  After interviewing participants Asch concluded that people go along with the views of others for different reasons: some experienced normative social influence and felt complied to accept the mistaken majority’s norms of behaviour to avoid being rejected and others experienced informative pressures and doubted their own judgements. 

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Sherif (1935)

Aim To investigate the emergence of group norms and testing conformity using the auto kinetic effect.
Procedure Participants were placed in a completely darkened room in which a stationary point of light appears to move. Participants were then asked individually how far the light had appeared to of have in a number of trials. They then worked in groups of 3 and announced their estimates aloud. Half did the experiment in groups first and then individually.
Findings Individual estimates were relatively stable but there was considerable variation between participants as the strength of the effect is seen differently. When in groups their judgements converged unit a group norm emerged. When the experiment was done the other way round, the group norm emerged more quickly and after, when working individually, they continued to give the group answer.
Conclusion When faced with ambiguous situations, participants looked to others in the group for guidance showing they experienced informational social influence. Also, once a group norm had been established, participants continued to use it when making individual judgements.

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Zimbardo (1973)

Aim To investigate how readily people would conform to new roles in the scenario of prisoners and guards in a role-playing exercise that stimulated prison life.
Procedure Well adjusted, healthy male volunteers were paid $15 a day to take part in a two-week stimulation study of prison life. Volunteers were randomly allocated to the roles of prisoners or guards. The prisoners were ‘arrested’ without warning and taken blindfolded to the basement of Stanford university which was acting as a prison. They were stripped and sprayed with disinfectant, given smocks to wear and their prison numbers which they had to memorise and were referred to by. 3 guards on each shifts wearing khaki uniforms, dark glasses and carrying wooden batons were in charge. Physical aggression was not permitted.
Findings The guards harassed and humiliated the prisoners and conformed to their perceived role, so much so that the study was discontinued after 6 days. Prisoners rebelled against the guards after only 2 days and guards quelled the rebellion using fire extinguishers. Some of the prisoners became depressed and anxious, 1 was released after 1 day, 2 more on the 4th day and by the 6th the prisoners were submissive to the guards.
Conclusion The conforming behaviour of the participants can be best explained in terms of situational factors as the result of normative social influence rather than depositional factors. The prison environment was an important factor in creating the guards’ brutal behaviour. People will readily conform to the social rules they are expected to play especially if the roles are as strongly stereotyped. The roles that people play shape their attitudes and behaviour.

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Orlando (1973)

Aim To investigate the effect of situational factors.
Procedure A mock psychiatric ward lasting 3 days at a hospital in Illinois. 29 volunteer members of staff were held in a ward of their own, performing the role of a ‘patient.’ Twenty-two regular staff carried out their usual roles. The procedure was videotaped.
Findings Within a short time, the behaviour of the mock patients became indistinguishable from the real patients. Some suffered withdrawal, depression or bouts of weeping and others dried to escape. Most reported feeling tension, anxiety, frustration despair and a loss of identity.
Conclusion The way the ‘patients’ were treated led to them acting and feeling the way they did.

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Haslam and Reicher (2001) BBC Prision

Aim To see if the guards would abuse their power and if the prisoners would succumb or rebel against oppression.
Procedure Volunteer sampling was used and participants were randomly allocated to the roles of prisoners or guards. An ethics committee and clinical psychologists oversaw how the investigation was run and unlike Zimbardo’s experiment, the researchers didn’t attempt to mimic a real prison, but guards were more powerful and had more resources than prisoners. Guards and prisoners were both systematically observed and unobtrusively filmed for 10 days.
Findings The guards were uncomfortable about exercising their power and became divided and powerless. They never developed any sense of group identity. But the prisoners, who were unhappy about the inequality they experienced, supported each other, shared a social identity and challenged the guards’ authority. A commune of both ex-guards and ex-prisoners was established but broke done when those who did not support the commune wanted to reinstate a more tyrannical version of the guard/prisoner system. The study was ended then, a day and a half early.
Conclusion A shared social identity can create social power and lead to positive outcomes. Individuals are not slaves to their social roles, but contribute to the norms and values of the group to which the belong.

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Milgram (1963)

Aim To find out whether ordinary Americans would obey an unjust order from a person in authority to inflict pain on another person.
Procedure 40 males volunteers were deceived into thinking they were giving electric shocks in a study concerning the role of punishment in learning. The participants were always the “teacher” and the confederate played the part of a ‘learner’ whose take was to memorise pairs of words. When tested, the ‘learner’ would indicate his choice using a selection of lights. The teachers’ role was to administer a shock every time the learner made a mistake. The participant watched the confederate being trapped to a chair in an adjoining room with electrodes attached to his arms. The confederate answered correctly to begin with, before beginning to make mistakes. Participant’s administered an electric shock for every error increasing in 15-volt increments from 15 to 450 volts. The researcher encouraged participants to continue if they hesitated. The experiment finished when the participant refused to continue or 450 volts was reached and given 4 times. The participants were then fully debriefed.  
Findings All participants were to at least 300 volts. 65% went to the end of the shock generator. Most participants found the procedure very stressful and wanted to stop, with some showing signs of extreme anxiety. They dissented verbally, but obeyed the researcher who prodded them to continue giving the shocks.
Conclusion Most people will obey orders which go against their conscience. When people occupy a subordinate position in a dominance hierarchy, they become liable to lose feelings of empathy, compassion and morality and are inclined towards blind obedience.

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Bickman (1974)

Aim To investigate if visible forms of authority increase obedience.  
Procedure 3 male experimenters dressed either in uniform (milkman and guard) or as a civilian (in a coat and tie) asked requests of passers-by on a street in new York.
Findings People were most likely to obey the experimenter dressed as guard and least likely to obey the experimenter dressed as a civilian.
Conclusion Visible forms of authority such as uniforms, increase levels of obedience.

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Hofling et al (1966)

Aim To test the obedience of nurses.
Procedure Hospital situation where a nurse who was working alone on a late shift was called from an unknown doctor and asked to administer 20 milligrams of a drug called Astroten, which is a drug the nurse didn’t know, to a patient so it would take effect before he arrived. If the nurse obeyed, she would be breaking several hospital rules.
Findings 21 out of 22 of the participants began to give the medication (a placebo) until another nurse, who had been stationed nearby, stopped them. When interviewed after, nurses said if they had been asked to do something similar before and didn’t the doctors got annoyed.
Conclusion High levels of obedience can be obtained in real-life settings.

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Rank and Jacobson (1977)

Aim To see if nurses would obey a known doctor and administer a known drug at a too high dosage.
Procedure Repeated Hoflings experiment but nurses were asked to use a common drug, called Valium at 3 times the recommended level. The doctor who telephoned gave a name of a real doctor on the staff and nurses were able to speak to other nurses before they proceed.
Findings 2 out of 18 nurses proceeded to prepare the medication as requested.
Conclusion Nurses aware of the toxic effects of a drug and allowed to interact naturally will not administer a medication overdose just because a doctor orders it.  

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Snyder and Fromkin (1980)

Aim To investigate why people resist pressures to conform.
Procedure Led 1 group of American students to believe that their most important attitudes were different from the of 10,000 other students and a second group were told that their most important attitudes were nearly identical to those of 10,000 others. After, they participated in a conforming study.
Findings Those who had been stripped of their identity resisted pressure to conform in the study.
Conclusion People attempt to assert their individuality.

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Schurz (1985)

Aim To investigate the effect of method of control on obedience.
Procedure Measured people’s locus of control before doing a similar study to Mailgram’s, where participants had to give differing levels of ultrasound from 1-20 to a ‘learner.’ They were told that level 20 ultrasound would cause skin damage.
Findings 80% went all the way to 20. There was no correlation between locus of control and obedience. But, of the 20% that were disobedient, they tended to take more responsibility for their actions than those who didn’t.
Conclusion Internal locus of control would lead to lower level of obedience as these people take more responsibility for their actions thus reducing the likelihood of an agentic shift.


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Moscovici (1969)

Aim To investigate whether a consistent minority could influence a majority to give an incorrect answer in a perception task.
Procedure 6 participants at a time estimated the colour of 30 slides which were of differing brightness’s of blue. 2 of the participants were confederates to the experimenter. In one of the conditions the confederates called the slide green and in all trials (consistent) on the other they called the slide green 24 times and blue 12 times (inconsistent).
Findings Participants in the consistent condition called the slides green in 8.4% of the trials and 32% of these participants called a slide green at only 1.3% of trials.
Conclusion A consistent minority can influence a majority to give an incorrect answer in a perception task.


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