Social Psychology Research Studies

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Sherif, 1935

Aim: To research into the types of social influence/conformity


  • Pps made estimates of the movement of a spot of light in a dark room
  • The spot wasn't actually moving- Autokinetic effect


  • The pps estimates converge into a group norm

Why did they conform?

  • Normative social influence, informational conformity, internalisation, compliance

Weaknesses of study:

  • Low ecological validity, cannot be generalised; gender bias, sample size
  • Low in mundane realism
  • Ambiguous task
  • No actual measurement of conformity
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Asch, 1951

Aim: Would people give the wrong answer to a task that had an obvious and unambiguous answer, just becuase everyone else did?


  • Standard & Comparison cards 
  • For two trials, stooges give correct answer, on the third trial they give wrong answer


  • Mean rate of conformity= 32% (1/3 of the times, pps conformed)


  • Low ecological validity 
  • Low in mundan realsim
  • Demand characteristics
  • Protection of participants
  • Gives a measurement of conformity
  • Non-ambiguous
  • Cross cultural
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Zimbardo, 1970s

Aim: To demonstrate the situational causes of negative behaviour


  • 75 volunteers asigned either guard or prisoner roles
  • Human rights were suspended; paid $15 a week for 2 weeks
  • Prisoners arrested by real police, 'deloused', given smocks
  • Guards issued uniforms, worked 8 hour shifts


  • Terminated after 6 days
  • 'pathological prisoner syndrome'
  • 'pathology of power'
  • Role expectations (identifying with thier roles)


  • Low ecological validity
  • Zimbardo was involved with the experiment
  • High mundan realism-arrested by real police
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Milgram, 1963

Aim: Investigate the nature of obedience in order to understand the inhumane acts carried out by the Germans


  • 'Experimentor' was a stooge wearing a lab coat, only said 3 phrases
  • Pps were always 'teacher', Stooge was always 'learner'
  • Teacher had to adminster electric shocks for each wrong answer for the word pairs


  • Every teacher gave at least 300V
  • 65% gave 450V


  • Low ecological validity 
  • Low in mundane realism 
  • Systematic and controlled experiment 
  • Milgram had a motive
  • Contributed to understanding of why Nazis behaved the way they did
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Hofling, 1966



  • Nurses in psychiatric hospitals on the night shift
  • A doctor rings 22 times to instruct nurses to give a drug to a patient
  • Hospital rules are:
  • NOT to take instructions over the phone
  • NOT to go over the dose
  • NOT to use unauthorised medicines


  • 21 obeyed and broke hospital rules


  • High in mundane realism-real hospital with real nurses
  • No informed consent
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Moscovici & Nemeth again

Aim: To find one of the conditions for minority influence


  • Mock jury- 4 people & 1 stooge who always gives minority view
  • C1: Given a seat = no influence
  • C2: Chooses seat at head of the table = very influential


Conditions needed for minority influence:

  • Consistency
  • Subtlety
  • Flexibilty
  • Autonomy
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