Social Influence: Independent Behaviour

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Independent Behaviour

Definition - resisting implicit or explicit pressure to conform or obey


  • cultural factors
  • situational factors
  • locus of control


  • resistance to pressure to conform
  • resistance to pressure to obey
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Cultural Factors

Outline - cultures can be divided into two types, individualist and collectivist. Individualist = focus on individual identity, reaching own personal goals and dealing with consequences of own behaviour. Collectivist = focus on group identity, what is best for the group instead of the individual.

Conformity - research suggests members of collectivist cultures are more likely to conform. Sundberg et al found that high school pupils in USA, an individualist culture, were less likely to conform in comparison to their Indian counterparts, collectivist culture.  Suggests members of individualist cultures find it easier to resist conformity and take part in independent behaviour. Evaluation- distinction between two types of culture is broad, plus cultures can change over time. During Vietnam War Larsen et al found much lower conformity levels than Asch did in his study in the 1950's.

Obedience- Milgram found in the US 35% of pps were disobedient. several researchers have replicated the experiment in different cultures and have found different results. Kilham and Mann found a much higher rate of disobedience in Australia, (84% in females, 60% in males).    Evaluation- difficult to draw conclusions as pps may have already heard of Milgram's work. Samples also different in terms of age and education.

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Situational Factors

Conformity - Baron et al found the task itself influenced conformity levels. when task was easy informational social influence (ISI) was no longer a strong factor = fall in conformity levels. also found that if there were no incentives to be right people exhibited more independent behaviour.

Evaluation- situation alone can't explain independent behaviour levels as some pps still conform despite a change in the type of situation they find themselves.

Obedience- degree of personal responsibility varies according to the situation. this is demonstrated in some of Milgram's variations, for example when there are 2 teachers pp more likely to show independent behaviour when administering shocks in comparison to just reading out the word pairs.

Evaluation - some participants still showed obedience though.


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Locus of Control

Outline - Rotter presented idea of locus of control which defines the degree to which a person feels control over their lives and things that happen to them. Two extremes, internal and external. People with high internal locus = believe they are very in control of their lives and therefore feel responsible for the events that happen to them. External locus = vice versa = no responsibility.

Conformity - Larsen varied Asch's study and found those with high external locus were more likely to conform.                                                                                                                              Evaluation - However situation affected external locuses more, e.g. if six confederates were seen as lower status the external locuses conformed less. those with internal locuses were less affected by the situation. Atgis also did a meta-analysis of studies and found only a low correlation with locus so evidence overall is inconclusive.

Obedience - Miller found those with high external locus of control were more likely to obey than those with a high internal locus.                                                                                              Evaluation- this seemed to depend on situational factors as this only occured when the person giving orders was of higher status. Internal locuses were not affected by status but external locuses were.

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