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PSYC 2210 Lecture Notes - Stanley Milgram, Random Assignment

Course Code
PSYC 2210

of 2
Lecture# 24
Social Psychology (Part III)
ŸHow our behaviour changes with the presences of real or imaginary people
ŸConformity and authority are the two key social components
ŸConformity is a change in a belief or behaviour as a result of real or imagined group pressure, the key
feature and its influences on behaviour, is the group pressure
ŸEarliest work done on conformity is Sherif (also did study on camp)
ŸSherif took exploited the auto kinetic effect, if you were put in a room with no light except one spot o
flight, there is a visible illusion, we will see the stationary spot in the darkened room to move, our eyes
are jumping around all the time, moving around to focus on something, which causes the still and
stationary object to seem to move
ŸSherif would bring individuals in room and ask them how much the spot moves, first everyone’s
response was different, then soon everyone converges to a certain distance (individual)
ŸThen he brought in groups of three and the individuals had to disclose what they saw, and in the same
way the original estimates jumped all over the place then converged to a particular value, in the group
context, all three appear to see the same spot move in the same direction and distance=convergence,
individuals adapting to a collective frame of reference, a perspective that is shared by all group
members (convergence=conformity)
ŸCritics said this was not easy problem to solve, and it may be a collaboration of individuals in an
attempt to solve an ambiguous problem (collaborating rather than colluding)
ŸIf a group o people facing relatively simple tasks and the group is giving an incorrect answer, what
would you do in that instance, provide your correct answer? Or go along? = Solomon Asch
ŸAsch ran 720 trials of his paradigm and people only got it wrong 3 times, its very easy (line task)
ŸHe would bring participants in groups and you would find yourself on a line and second to last or last
on the line, and your really the only participant, everyone else is a research assistant (but you don’t
know that)
ŸEveryone goes down the line and says which answer they think is correct, and what happens if
everyone gives the wrong answer, what happens to your behaviour then
ŸWhen doing this individually, accuracy is 99%, but in group situations, 75% will give an incorrect
answer as well, start conforming with the incorrect response
Ÿ25% resisted pressure to conform, in spite of the fact that everyone argued otherwise
ŸPower of a group to alter our beliefs and behaviour and even agree in a clearly incorrect response in a
task that you didn’t get rewarded or punished for, just have to say what you think
ŸCertain things affect conformity, first is the level of task difficulty, sometimes he made the tasks more
simple or more difficult, when the level of difficulty is more difficult, the more likely you are to rely
on the perceptions of other people, and conformity decreases as the task gets easier
ŸThe size of a majority you need in order to gain conformity, one person is not enough, rates of
conformity needs at least more than 3 people to increase agreement
ŸUnanimity is key, if there is one person before you must be unanimously wrong, because even if one
other person sees what you see, then conformity decreases dramatically, they must be in sync
ŸAnother key feature is that your responses have to be public, if your allowed to respond privately, or
write your answer down, you become more conscientious and accurate in your answer
ŸObedience and conformity not the see thing, conformity involves changes in your behaviour ina
response to reciprocal behaviours of peers, group norm of relatively equal status
ŸObedience involves change of belief or behaviour in result of different status, authority to someone
higher than you in a hierarchy, to behave in the way they want you to
ŸObedience to authority studies by Stanley Milgram, he was influenced by how WWII happened, a
common explanation was that Germans are different, they have a character flaw and cannot stand up to
authority, weak of character, which is the only way the obeyed Hitler
ŸSo Milgram tried to test how people respond to authority, he conducted study at Yale, brought male
participants in a lab (20 years-50 years), they were introduced to another participant, Mr. Wallace,
about 50 years old, a little overweight, seems pleasant. They had to draw straws to being either a
teacher or a learner, and Mr.Wallace would be the learner, making the participant the teacher, “random
assignment of roles”
ŸMr. Wallace and participants are brought into room, and Mr. Wallace is brought into a room wired to
electric shocks, and participant is in another room and is given a list of word pairs, and they must read
them, then their going to have another list of on word, and another list of the pair and other words, and
Mr.Wallace must match it to the correct word to make the correct word pair, every time he is wrong he
gets a shock, and you must increase it by 15 volts for each incorrect answer
ŸQuestion is how high would people go? No one would go to entire length, but 2/3 of participants are
willing to do it up to the red zone level of shocks
ŸParticipants are distressed and very hesitant of doing this experiment and they were encouraged to
continue the experiment, it was a voluntary experiment, but experimenter says that they must continue
(which they really don’t)àthis shows that all of us will conflict pain others simply at the request of an
authority=remote victim conviction (victim was out of sight, couldn’t hear or see, you had to imagine
what was happening to Mr. Wallace)
ŸIn another version of the experiment, with auditory feedback, vocal sounds were heard after each
shock (pre taped lines), grunts, shouting, pained groans, ‘get me out of here, I don’t want to be in the
experiment’, ‘I cant stand the pain’, agonizing scream, ‘I’m no longer participating, I won’t answer’,
then silence
ŸNow that participants have feedback, about 2/3 STILL continue to obey the experiment (authority)
ŸMilgram conducted 18 variations of the experiment to see under what conditions people would show
higher or lower levels of obedience, levels of obedience in the first two drafts are very high
ŸThis may be because they are brought onto the Yale campus, a well known, respectable place, so he
brought participants to a rundown building, with no authority around, and still levels of obedience was
about 50%
ŸMaybe its because Mr. Wallace is out of sight, when he is in the same room, obedience is at 40%
ŸIf you had to force the shock on Mr. Wallace, still rates of conformity are 30%
ŸIf the experimenter leaves you alone in the room with Mr. Wallace, there is a 20% rate of conformity
ŸIf there are other participants, whoa re teachers, and the other guy who says they don’t want to do this,
10% still are obedient
ŸThis shows that its not only Germans, presumable given appropriate authority, all of us will obey
ŸWhy do people do this? first potential account is diffusion of responsibility, you assume you are not
responsible for what happens to Mr.Wallace, it is the experimenters accountability, regardless,
participants are still distressed, they know that it is partially their fault (conflict to obey to authority,
plea of Mr. Wallace and conscious)
ŸFoot in the door approach, peoples readiness to agree to a small effect increases the chance that they
will agree to do something bigger, first shocked at 15 volts, then it soon escalates
ŸDominique saw that there is a very specific point in the study when people disobey, in all variations,
and that’s at 150 volts (critical decision period), what’s so special? No systematic relationship between
level of pain expressed and likelihood that you will stop conflicting pain
ŸThe only thing people responded to was the request to be let free, 37% of disobedient participants were
at this point, where confederate said they wanted to be let out
ŸAt this point, you either listen (human rights are being violated), and if you don’t, you don’t rethink
your decision and you go all the way to the end
ŸPeople respond not to expressions/signals of pain, but to human rights, and you either agree or disagree
to this plea
ŸThis one study shows the relevance to psychological science to social politics