Social Influence: Conformity

Revision cards giving all of the information needed for conformity

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Conformity 1

Definition- a change in behaviour as a result of group pressure, which may come from society as a whole or from particular groups in society.

Conformity= either a change in the minority due to the majority influence or the following of accepted and expected ways of behaving e.g. social norms.

Social Norms-

  • define appropriate behaviour for every social group
  • vary from society to society
  • vary within a society over time
  • provide order in a society and help make social life predictable and understandable.


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Jenness and Sherif Key Studies

Jenness- asked groups of pps to individually estimate number of beads in a jar. Calculated group average. Allowed discussion before reevaluation. Found individual estimates tended to move towards group mean. Ambiguous task = informational social influence.

Sherif- made use of the autokinetic effect involving a pinpoint of light in a totally dark room. Pinpoint appears to move = optical illusion. Ambiguous task.

Procedure- pps asked to estimate how far the light moved and in what direction. Average scores calculated after series of trials. Pps divided into groups, each group containing very different averages. Pps then made new judgements whilst in their groups.

Results- after a few trials individual judgements tended to move towards agreement within the group. Effect was still evident when tests repeated later.

Conclusion- when making judgements in a group there is a tendency for individual judgements to drift towards group concensus, to conform to the average of the group.

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Asch Key Study

Asch- wanted to see the impact of conformity during an unambiguous task. pps asked to match a standard line with three comparison lines.

Procedure- tested in groups of seven, whilst six pps were confederates. genuine participant sat last but one. pps asked for their decision on which line was identical in order, going around the table. 12 of the 18 trials were critical trials where the confederates all gave the same wrong answer.

Results- Pps conformed to the group's incorrect judgements in 32% of the trials on average, compared to the control group in which judgements were almost 100% correct. 25% of pps never conformed and 75% conformed at least once. Only 1 in 20 conformed every time.

Conclusion- in a group situation there is a tendency to conform to the judgements of others even when the judgement is clearly incorrect.

Evaluation- limited sample of males, no generalisation.McCarthy era, people scared to stand out. High internal validity = lab experiment. Lacks ecological validity as = lab experiment

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Types of Conformity

Compliance- changing behaviour without changing beliefs. Normally in response to normative social influence due to the need to fit in to society. Non-conformity often punished with disapproval, ridicule and even being shunned, as shown by Asch's variation in which one confederate consistently gave wrong answer and was ridiculed by 6 real pps.

Internalisation- changing behaviour and internal beliefs. Normally in response to informational social influence due to the need to be right. People generally unsure of what to do in particular situation and so seek guidance from others. Shown by Sherif and Jenness in which pps gave similar answers after discussion as task was ambiguous and so unclear as to correct answer.

Dual-Dependency Model- proposed by Deutsch and Gerald, presents the idea of there being two powerful psychological needs that lead to conformity, the need to be right and the need to be accepeted by society.

Evaluation- dual-dependency model suggests two needs are separate and independent which isn't always the case, rather that the two needs compliment one another.

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