When situations are ambiguous and we’re not sure what to do or what is right, we rely upon
others to help us make these judgements, and we come to believe in these judgements.
Uncertainty & Social Norms
Number of inches of movement observed versus a group of people. A visual illusion was
presented to a group of people. It was essentially a coloured dot that would move in the light.
They were first tested alone, and people developed their own ideas. When asked to do the
same thing in a group, in trial 1, the ideas are altered. Up to trial 3, they all believed the dot
moved the same amount of distance, and therefore, when they are separated again after the
third trial to do individual surveying, they all believed the dot had moved the same distance. It
demonstrates that the social group had proved their discussion to be ambiguous.
The autokinetic effect (Sherif, 1935)
When told to match the line to a set of other lines, the test subject, along with the
confederates of experiment said the same answer. In this case, they mentioned that line B
identifies with the line, and so the test subject, to social norm, says line b as well, even tough
line c was the right answer.
Group power. It is nice to have an ally.
Conformity: Asch Study
The emergence of norms and their subsequent influence (Sherif, 1935)
75% of people conformed at least once
On any given trial, conformity occurred 1/3 of the time
Conformity: Asch study
Therefore, even when we know what is right, it’s hard to go against a group, and we often
conform just to fit in. Or the group can make us doubt ourselves!
How many people does it take to get us to conform?
The Power of Groups
Once you get a group of three, conformity will start.
If one person says something, as long as you stay silent, you're implicitly agreeing to the
statement, and creating a social norm.
Conformity & Group Size
1 dissenter: conformity drops to 6-10%
1 dissenter who is wrong: conformity drops to around 14%
How difficult is it to empower someone to resist normative pressures?
....actually, it’s pretty easy....it just takes a single dissenter (in the Asch situation, that is), to
massively reduce conformity rates, even if the dissenter still has a different opinion from the
subject- Therefore, groups are most powerful when they are UNANIMOUS. But break this
unanimity and you empower others to do likewise.
Dissent: The Power of One
Psychologically healthy students were creating a mock jail, where some were guards and some
were prisoners. These 'prisoners' were arrested out of their houses, in front of their
neighbours and were taken to prison. Even though the prisoners knew it was fake, their
neighbours didn't and still judge them afterwards. After being in a real jail, they get
Zimbardo Prison Study
Tuesday, March 13, 2012