social influence - conformity (majority influence)

all my notes from 1st booklet on conformity

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  • Created by: Atlanta
  • Created on: 11-04-12 14:27

what is conformity

conformity: reflects a behaviour that is a responce to a percieved group pressure.

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types of conformity - compliance

compliance occurs when an individual accepts influence in the hope that they achieve a favourable reaction from those around them. Therefore the attitude/behaviour is adopted because of the associated rewards or approval.       

In compliance the person conforms publically but disagrees privately.

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types of conformity - identification

identification occurs when an individual wants to establish a relationship with anouther person or group. By adopting their attitudes, they feel like more of a part of a group.

The purpose of adopting this behaviour is to feel like part of a group.

In identification the person conforms publically as well as privately, as they have identified with the group and feel a sence of group membership.

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types of conformity - internalisation

Internalisation occurs when an individual accepts influene because the content of the attitude or behaviour proposed is consistent with their own beliefs and values.

In internalisation the person conforms publically and privately because they have internalised and accepted the views of the group.

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majority influence - definition

majority influence:  is when people adopt the values, attitudes or behaviour of the majority after being exposed to them.

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asch's study of majority influence - procedures an

essential information

aims: to see how the lone real participant would react to the behaviour of the confederates.


  • 123 male american participants took part
  • participants shown a standard line and a series of 3 lines and had to say which was the same length as the standard line shown.
  • participants always answered in the same order with the real participant answering second to last or last
  • confederates gave the same incorrect answer on 12 of the 18 trials.












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asch's study - findings


  • on the 12 critical trials 36.8% of the real participants gave incorrect answers - they conformed to the incorrect reponce by the majority.
  • 25% of real participants never conformed on any trial.

to confirm the stimulus, Asch conducted a control trial with no confederates giving the wrong answer. He found that people do make mistakes 1% of the time, but this couldn't explain high conformity in the main study.

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asch's study - conclusions


  • distortion of perception - a small number of participants came to see the lines in the same way as the majority
  • distortion of judgement - they felt doubt about the accuracy of their judgement and therefore went for the majority view.
  • distortion of action - majority of participants who conformed continued to privately trust their own judgement but changed their public behaviour, giving incorrect answers to avoid dissaproval from the other group members.
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factors affecting conformity

size of majority

  • increasing the majority increases conformity up to a point
  • asch found very little conformity when majority consisted of 1 or 2 people, however when there was 3 conformity jumped to 30%, further increases of the majority didnt increase conformity- therefore it is only up to a certain point.

presence of a dissenter

  •  decreases conformity
  • gives social support to individual- would feel more confident in giving their own judgement/answer
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factors affecting conformity

difficulty of task

  • the more difficult the task the more likely participants are to confom
  • in a harder task participants are more likely to work together to create an answer than if they were working on a much easier task.

ear/historical context

  •  Asch's study was in the 1950's in america, the era of mcCarthyism - people in this era were more conformist so there would be an increase of conformity in this era
  • nowadays people are less likely to conform and so there would be a decrease in conformity


  • collective cultures like india are more likely to conform compared to individualistic cultures like UK and USA (smith and Bond 1993)
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Evaluating Asch's study into compliance

Research evidence

  • Asch's study is reliable as it can be repeated:

Perrin and Spencer (1980) found era and culture differences in rates of conformity

  • they suggest that the results of Asch's study may have been influenced by the era and culture in which it was carried out - Asch's study was carried out on americans and they were all men, and the research was conducted in the 1950's  the era of mcCarthyism ( a period of strong anti-communist feeling in America when people were scared to be different).
  • conformity influenced by historical and cultural context
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Evaluating Asch's study into compliance

Research evidence  

individual differences: smith and bond meta analysis (1998)

  • found that collective cultures were more conformist than individualistic cultures.
  • in individualistic cultures, most peoples behaviour is determined primarily by personal goals that may/may not overlap with their collective( ie their family, friends, work groups etc.) If there is conflict with personal and collective goals, personal goals are their priority.
  • whereas in collective cultures, most behaviour is determined by large collective goals rather than individual goals, their priority is the collective goals. Therefore they are more likely to conform to the majority.
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Evaluating Asch's study into compliance

external validity:          

  •  it lacks validity because asking people to judge lengths of lines is an insignifficant task where people would probably be willing to conform to save face. Whereas on a more important task it would be expected that conformity levels would drop.
  • the participants had to give their answers outloud infront of a group of strangers so there was social pressure to conform; so they wouldn't sound stupid and would be accepted by the group.
  • so this may show us about conformity in special circumstances.

williams and sogon: tested people who belonged to the same sports club and found that conformity may be higher with people that you know.  

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Evaluating Asch's study into compliance


Real world applications - the research into conformity can be applied to juries.

Tanford and Penrod (1986)

  • found that the pressure to conform the majority view is strong in juries as the jurors wouldn't want to appear to be deviant from the other jurors.
  • This is demonstrated by the findings that the first vote of the jury leads to the final verdict 95% of the time.
  • this is conformity to majority position
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Evaluating Asch's study into compliance


Deception and lack of informed consent:

  • the participants did not know the real purpose of the experiment and they didnt know that the other participants were confederates.
  • they couldn't have been told the true purpose of the experiment or the experiment would be pointless.
  • this could be overcome if the participants were properly informed during debreifing and if they were given the offer to the right to withdraw their data from the study. The withdrawing of data is a means of compensating for the deception.
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Behaviour, belief and opinion.

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