Social Psychology

Revision cards on social influence

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Types of Conformity

  • Three types of conformity -
  • compliance - going along with others to gain their approval or avoid their disapproval.
  • internalisation - going along with others because you have accepted their point of view becasue it is consistent with your own.
  • identification - going along with others because you have accepted their point of view but only because of a desire to be like them.

Research into majority influence - Asch! Conformity is most often attributed to a group putting pressures onto an individual. This is known as majority influence. Often when we are subject to majority influence we comply with beliefs but do not internalise these beliefs.

Asch asked participants to take part in a vision test. All but one participant was a confederate. They were seated in a room and asked to look at three lines with different lengths and were asked which of these lines was the same length as the standard line. the answer was obvious but im some cases all confederates made the same wrong choice to see how the real participant would react.

In total 123 male american undergraduates were tested. The confederates were instructed to give the same incorrect answer on 12 out of 18 trials. Asch found that 36.8% of responses from participants was incorrect. Asch also carried out a control experiment & found that people got the wrong answer 1% of the time.

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Evaluating Research into Majority Influence

Asch carried out variations in his study and found that there were factors that affected the amount of conformity.

  • Difficulty of the task - Asch made the differences between the lengths of the line much smaller. Under these circumstances levels of conformity increased.
  • Size of majority - Asch found that there was a little conformity when the majority consisted of just one or two individuals. Under pressure of a majority of three the proprtion, jumped to 30%.
  • Unanimity of the majority - When the real participant was given the support of another real participant or a confederate, conformity levels dropped, reducing errors from 32% to 5.5%.
  • Validity - asking people to judge the length of lines is a rather insignificant task and one where they would probably be willing to conform to save face. On a more important task we would expect conformity levels to drop, the fact that participants had to answer out loud and in a group of strangers means that there were special pressures on them to conform, such as not wanting to sound stupid and wanting to be accepted by the group.
  • Ethical issues - participants in asch's stuyd did not know they were being tricked - they did not know the real purpose of the experiment. They could not have been told the true aim, or it would ruin the experiment. right to withhold data.
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Conformity to Minority Influence

Moscovici et al tested 32 groups of six women, of the six, two were confederates. They were shown 36 blue coloured slides, the use of filters made them vary in colour. Participants were told that the experiment about colour perception. Two confederates who answered either 1st & 2nd, or 1st & 4th consistently reported that the slides were green. There were also control groups, were participants were free to answer without influence.

Findings - Overall, participants agreed with the minority 8.42% of the trials. Impressively 32% gave the same answer as the minority atleast once. The physical position of the confederate made no difference. When the confederates were inconsistent, agreement with the minority was reduced to 1.25%. Variation of this experiment included participants writing down their responses, rather than saying them out loud. In this condition there was more agreement with the confederates suggesting that at least part of the inhibition of minority influence is people's reluctance to be seen as aligning themselves with deviant minority in public.

Conversion Theory - assumes that individuals are motivated to reduce the conflict caused when a contradictory argument arises against a held attitude, and therefore will examine the minority's arguments in order to understand why these people do not hold the same opinions at the majority.

  • Ethics -necessary to deceive participants. participants told the true purpose after.
  • Validity - real world research suggests that in reality, minority influence is relatively rare.
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Explanations of Why People Conform

1. Normative Social Infleunce - This is similar to compliance, people go along with majority but in private do not accept the view points or actions. Group members place pressure on people to conform and make it difficult for them to deviate. We conform because we want to be liked, accepted and a part of the group.

Minority influence: The minority have to stay consistent in their beliefs and persuade the majority to change their position. This involves the majority internalising the beliefs of the minority, often a long process. Minority influence is a form of social influence where people reject the norms of a group and move to the position of a minority.

2. Informational Social Influence - Similar to internalisation. Individuals go along with the majority becasue they think their point of view is genuinely right, we conform both publicly and privately. Often occurs when we are unsure of the correct behaviour in a situation, and we believe others to be the experts. We conform because we want to be right.

3. Social Impact Theory - People are more likely to conform when there is a larger majority of people telling them that something is right (Asch). As time goes on and the minority deviants lessen it becomes even more difficult to resist conforming. The group or idea is from a person who is in a position of authority, we identify with the group that is trying to persuade us.

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Obedience to Authority

Milgram (1963) wanted to find out why members of Hitler's party had been so compliant in obeying orders to put people to death. Milgram planned an experiment where each participant believed they were taking part in a study to investigate whether punishment would improve learning and memory. The participant was to ask the learner questiosn, each incorrect answer was punished with an electric shock, beginning at 15 volts going up by 15 volts for every incorrect answer up to 450 volts. The learner stated he had a mild heart condition. 65% went to last switch applied a 450 volt shock to the learner. Milgram asked 40 pscyhiatrists to predict the results. They said that less than 1% would go all the way, and that those who did would be psychopathic sadists.

Milgram's situational factors of obedience: proximity of victim, proximity of authority figure, the prescence of allies and increasing the teacher's discretion.

Ethical issues =

  • Deception and lack of informed consent (deceived participants by saying he was studying the effects of punishment on learning, denied participant right to informed consent)
  • Right to withdraw (unclear to what extent participant had the right to withdraw)
  • Protection from physiological harm (Baumring 1964 claimed Milgram put his participants under great emotional strain that was unjustified. Months after the experiment, Milgram sent a questionnaire to participants asking them to reflect on experience, only 1.5% said they were angered.
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Obedience to Authority

Realism: Ome & Holland (1968) questioned the internal validity of Milgram’s research. They said that participants saw through the deception and were just pretending it was what was expected of them, that peopel know that no real harm would be inflicted in an experiment. Holland replicated and 75% did not believe the decption. They claimed that the results were only relevant in a research situation

Generalisability: Hofling et al (1966) carried out a study in a hospital involving 22 nurses. An unknown doctor (confederate) called up and instructed nurse to administer 20mg of medication, when the maximum dosage is 10mg & he said he’d complete all authorisation paperwork when he arrived. 21 out of 22 nurses obeyed.

Obedience Alibi (Mandel 1998) – proximity of victim: reserve police battalion 101 (1942) ordered to kill jews using close physical proximity, a small minority agreed to be reassigned. Proximity of the authority figure: in the above killings, the killers were left alone with the victims without authority. Prescence of allies: the killers were aware that several peers had been assigned to other duties, yet continued to kill till the massacre was over. Increasing the teacher’s discretion: the killers killed in a brutal way, didnt lessen pain of victims. Similar to milgrim, the killers enjoyed power over victims.

Why do people obey( Milgrim 1974) Gradual commitment, agentic shift, the role of buffers & justifying obedience: good for science .

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Explanations of Why People Obey

Criticising milgrim's explanation for obedience

  • Monocausal Emphasis: Mandel (1998) suggests that by focusing on obedience as explaining the atrocities carried out in the Holocaust, Milgrim is overlookign other explanations. However, Goldhagen (1996) argues that there is other anti-semitism motivations other than obedience in the form of voluntary cruelty to Jews by Ordinary Germans.
  • Agentic Shift: Milgrim composed his study to the Police Battalion (Browning 1992). However this was over 4 years, where as Milgrim's study was only half an hour. Also, Milgrim's participants were told that the shocks may be painful, but would not cause permanent tissue damage.
  • The consequences of an obedience alibi: Mandel (1998) believes the use of an 'obedience alibi' to explain such events have a number of negative consequences. Obedience as a key role in the Holocaust is unjustified given an analysis of the historical record. The suggestion of obedience is distressing for those affected. It would exaggerate war criminals for their crimes.
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Resisting Social Influence

  • Resisting pressures to conform
  • Insights from asch's studies (the role of allies): The introduction of a dissident gave social support and reduced conformity.
  • Moral Considerations: People are motivated to move towards the majority position. However, if the task involves judgments with a moral dimension, there is little movement towards the majority.
  • The Non-Conformist Personality: Your personality affects how likely you are to conform and individuals who respond to majority influence with independance tend to be unconcerned with social norms.
  • Resisting pressures to obey
  • Insights from Milgram's studies: Milgram's study showed that if the location changed from yale to a downtown office, participants felt mroe confident withdrawing from the study. When the victim was able to be seen the resistance also increase. Being made aware of the effects of your actions and having social support are means of increasing resistance.
  • Moral considerations: Kohlberg (1969) showed Milgram's volunteers a picture of moral dilemmas, those whose decisions were based on general moral principles such as justice over social order were less likely to conform than those who had restricted moral development.
  • Social Heroism: Those who are willing to make sacrifices for the good of others in society. Putting oneself at risk in the pursuit of an important principles.
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Individual Differences in Independant Behaviour

Locus of control: Internal – a person believes their behaviour is caused by their own personal decisions and efforts. External – a person believes their behavioru is caused by fate, luck or other circumstances. High internals are likely to be active seekers of information, tend to be more achievement orientated. Rotter (1955) argues that people high in internality rely more on their own actions and exhibit greater initiative making them more successful. Twenge et al (2004) recent meta analysis, found that young americans increasingly believe that thier lives are being controlled by outside forces rather than their own behaviour. They suggest that he rs has seen a corresponding increase in externality, as young people see many aspects of their lives as beyond their control.

Cultural differences – anderson (1999) measured attributional style, depression & loneliness at a university in china & one in US. Students in china accepted more responsibility for interpersonal behavioru than us students. Relatively maladaptive attributional styles in chinese students, largely accounted for their relatively high scores on depression and loneliness.

Attributional Style ( personality attribute that indicates how people explain themselves. Personal (dispositional vs situational) individual may see themselves as the cause of an event. Permanent (stable vs unstable) individual may see the situation as unchangeable or changeable. Persuasive (global vs local) individual may see situation as affecting all aspects of their life. Positive attributional style ( situational) do not let negative events affect too many aspects of lives. Negative attributional style (dispositional) blame themselves for negative events and believe they will continue indefinitely.

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Implication for Social Change

From Conformity research

  • Change from minority to majority may decrease satisfaction and increase desire to leave group eg. south africa ( Prislin & Chistiansen)
  • Terrorism is a form of minority influence, leading to social change through persistence and conformity to zeigeist (Kruglandski).

From Obedience research

  • Obedience used as explanation for events during the Holocausst and ethnic cleansing (examples of social change).
  • Disobedient models empower others (civil disobedience e.g. civil rights).
  • Drift to goodness - gradual commitment and ussing social models (Zimbardo).

From research into independant behaviour

  • Importance of dissent e.g. Gandhi.
  • Moral convictions e.g. Rosa Parks

Validity - Bliss looked at historical relevance of Milgrim's obedience studies, no difference over time.

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Resisting Social Influence Continued...

Other things to consider!

Resistance to obedience: The act of defying an order from an authority figure despite pressures to obey.

Proximity of the victim: In original study, learners remained in separate room to the teacher. In variations, milgram moved the two closer, obedience rates dropped the closer the victim, as they were more able to empathise.

Proximity of authority: When the experimenter gave instruction over the telephone, obedience rates dropped only 9 out of 40 went to maximum voltage.

Prescence of allies: When two bogus teachers refused to continue to shock almost all of the others did also, it is easier to confront if you have support from others.

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