Social Influence Experiments

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  • Created on: 06-01-13 14:51


Aim: To investigate what the affect of group discussion on accuracy of judgements.

Procedure: The participants guessed how many Jelly beans were in a jar, they then discussed the estimates in groups where they realised there was a wide range of estimates, then the individuals would make another private estimate.

Findings: One of the findings was that when the individuals made their seconds estimates the estimates converged and were closer to the group estimate, but also it was noted that females changed more than males. 

Conclusion: The majority opinions affect the judgements of individuals, especially in a ambigious situation. 

Evaluation: There was no psychological harm or deception which means that this experiment is ethical however there is historical bias as this experiment took place a long time ago. 

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Asch (1956)

Aim: To investigate how far individuals will go to conform to the majority who give wrong answers.

Procedure: 123 American male students volunteered to take part in a study which they thought was a study on visual study. The participant was put into a group of 7-9 confederates who were sat around a table. The task was to say which line - A, B, or C, matched the stimulus line. On 12 out of 18 critical trials the confederates gave false answers, The participant would be last but one to answer.

Findings: The control group had a error rate of 0.04% but on the 12 trials there was a 32% conformity rate to wrong answers, and 75% conformed to at least one wrong answers and 5% conformed to all 12 wrong answers. 

Conclusion: The judgements of the individuals are affected by the majority opinions even though it is obviously a wrong answer. Which interviews afterwards showed was because they wanted to be liked by the group and because they thought they might be the ones who are wrong.

Evaluation: This experiment has been repeated which makes it reliable. However it is not ecologically valid and unethical (stress, deception).

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Variations of Asch

Asch discovered that when there was only 1 participant and 1 confederate the conformity rate was lower. But then increased when there was 2 confederates as the conformity rate increased to 13%, this rose to 32% when he added a further confederate, and continued adding confederates but the conformity rate didn't rise higher than 32%. However, Gerad believed this was wrong and that the conformity rate should rise as the number of confederates rise.

If there was a rebellious confederate then the conformity rate decreased to 5.5%.

Asch discovered that if the task was made more difficult then the participant was more likely to conform.

The conformity rate has changed over time as in 1974 Larsen used the same method and ound a lower rate of conformity and then in 1979 he found a conformity rate similar to Asch's. 

When the participants were asked to write down their answers instead of saying them aloud, the conformity rater decreased to 12.5%. 

Perrin and Spencer found British Medical students had a rate of 0.25%

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Milgram (1963)

Aim: To test whether the Germans are different hypothesis is correct, as in the holocaust the germans were obedient to Hitler which caused the holocuast to happen.

Procedure: 40 American Males volunteered through a advert to take part in a study which they thought was about the role of punishment in learning. The participant would act as the teacher and the confederate would be the learner. The 'teacher' would have to give electric shocks everytime the learner gave a wrong answer and the voltage would increase everytime up to 450V. But the confederate was pretending to get the shock.

Findings: The obedience rate was 62.5% of people who gave the full 450V. Bu in other version where the learner pounded on the wallls 65% obeyed and with 100% going up to at least 300V.

Conclusion: The Germans are different Hypothesis is wrong as the American Participants obeyed and gave a lethal eletric shock.

Evaluation: The experiment is a basic method for studying obedience but it is not culturally valid and is unethical as the particpants were decieved and caused psychological harm.

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Jerry Burger (ethical version of Milgram)

Aim: provide an ethical experiment into obedience using parts of Milgram's method.

Procedure: The particpants were screened so that anyone vulnerable to stress and anxiety would be excluded from the experiment. They also had to undergo a interview with a clinical psychologist. This left them with 29 men and 41 women of mixed ages. Then before the experiment started they were told 3 times that they had the right to withdraw and stop. Then the same method as Milgram would be followed but the participants would be stopped from going past 150V. But only if the participants were going to carry on. 

Findings: He found that 70% of particpants were willing to go past the 150V. 

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Variations of Milgram

There were different variations of Milgram performed by other psychologists:

     (variation) - (percentage who went to 450V)

  • Victim (confederate) is silent throughout - 100% 
  • Location of the experiment moved to run down office block - 48%
  • Victim in the same room as the participant - 40%
  • The teacher forces the hand of the learner onto the shock plate - 30%
  • Experimenter order given over the phone - 20.5%
  • 2 confederates refuse to obery - 10%
  • Teacher reads the words but confederate gives the shock - 92.5%
  • No lab coat worn by the experimenter - 20%
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Rotter (1966)

Rotter identified Locus Of Control as a personality dimension where people either feel in control of their actions and decisions or not. 

Internal Locus Of Control is when an individual feels in control of their actions and decisions so takes personal responsibility for their actions and the consequences of them.

External Locus Of Control is when an individual feels that external forces are in control of their actions and decisions so take less responsibility.

Rotter believed that if an individual has an internal locus of control it makes them more resistant to social pressure with those seeing themselves in control of a situation more likely to percieve themselves as having free choice to conform or obey. 

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Shute (1975) and Jones and Kavanagh (1996)

Shute exposed undergraduates to their peers who either expressed conservative or liberal attitudes to drug taking; from this shute found that undergraduates that have a internal locus of control conformed less to expressing pro-drug attitudes. This supports Rotter's Theory. 

Jones and Kavanagh investigated the link between moral disengagment and individual differences in Locus of Control. They found that those that had a high external locus of control were more likely to obey unethical authority figures. 

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Moscovichi (1969)

Aim: to investigate the effects of a consistent minority on a majority.

Procedure: Moscovichi showed participants different shades of blue and the participants has to say the colour of the slides, in one condition the two confederates said that the slides were green on every slide. In another condition the two confederates gave different answers. A control was used consisting of only participants.

Findings: In condition one it was found that the consistent minority had an affect on the majority as 8.42% conformed, whereas when in condition two there was a inconsistent minority as 1.25% conformed. 32% of all participants said the slide was green at least once.

Conclusion: Minoritied can influence a majority, but not all the time.

Evaluation: There is little ecologial validity as it was a lab experiment, and only used fenale participants. 

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