PSYCH 2C03 Study Guide - Final Guide: Social Proof, Social Influence, The Control Group

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Social Psychology Textbook Notes
CHAPTER 7 (193-219, 222-232)
CONFORMITY: a change in behaviour as a result of the real or imagined influence of other
EXAMPLE: McMaster researchers observed that rats will also conform, even if it’s
costly to them.
-rats who were given toxic food, got sick later and learned to avoid that food, however if
they exposed to other rats who were eating it, they would eat it anyways (Galen and
Whiskin 2008)
IV: offering toxic food
DV: whether rats will eat it, even though they know it’s toxic
-students asked to rate own intelligence, after seeing how others rating themselves
-others set tone for self-analysis (if positive, students reports positively as well)
(Voraurer & Miller 1997)
IV: what type of previous example is shown to student (positive or negative)
DV: how students report on themselves
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Interaction with others provides information. For social cues regarding situations in
which we are unsure, or unfamiliar with
INFORMATIONAL SOCIAL INFLUENCE: conforming to others because we believe that
others’ interpretations of an ambiguous situation is more correct than our and will help us chose
an appropriate course of action.
EXAMPLE: Observation of a dot of light in a dark room, light appears to move away
from you (5-10 cm) every time it reappears. (Sherif, 1936)
-based on AUTOKINETIC EFFECT (dark room provides no frame of reference, so you
assume light is moving, because you have no anchor securing the light in one spot even
though it ACTUALLY is in one spot)
-chose autokinetic effect for ambiguous situation, so the purpose of the experiment is
unclear to the participants. Key: This effect is experienced differently by different people.
-2nd Phase: same experiment but with participants in groups of 3
-In pairs, people reached a common estimate = conformation
IV: In group vs. individual, autokinetic effect
DV: Measure degree of conformity of people in pairs vs them alone
RESULTS: People used others as sources of information, conforming to the answers of
PRIVATE ACCEPTANCE: conforming to other people’s behaviour out of a genuine
belief that what they are doing or saying is right
PUBLIC COMPLIANCE: conforming to other people’s behaviour publicly,even though
they may not agree with them.
Sherif followed up with the participants afterwards one by one for a repeat of the
experiment, but the people still gave the group answers private acceptance.
When people believe the task is “important” they are more likely to conform when they
don’t believe the task to be “important” (pressure of importance make people look to
others for guidance)
When people conform to Informational Social Influence
Ambiguous situations when unsure of correct response/appropriate behaviour
EX. Fire alarm in a mall; look around to see if there is an actual emergency
OR Americans “abusing” Iraqi prisoners, tortured because
Crisis situations quick decisions made following the crowd in crisis, panic clouds
EX. War of the Worlds radio prank CONTAGION: rapid transmission of emotions or
behaviour through a crowd
OR Solar temple cult mass suicide-murder (extreme informational social influence)
Experts placing value in the opinion of experts and professionals
EX. When smoke is seen from engine, flight passengers will look to flight attendants for
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OR in War of the Worlds example: if listeners called the police to look for help but the cops
were also under the impression that the events were actually happening
When Informational Conformity Backfires
War of the Worlds example the act of conformity can be dangerous
MASS PSYCHOGENIC ILLNESS: The occurrence of similar physical symptoms in a group of
people for which there is no known physical or medical cause.
-EX. Toxic bus case
An entire bus of people reported illness in response to some sort of chemical toxin, when in fact
the doctor could not find anything medically wrong with them nor any trace of chemical toxins
in the bus (post-9/11 world)\
-media plays an important role
Resisting Informational Social Influence
(Buehler & Griffin)
-asked students to read a controversial news report of a an African-Canadian youth driving a
stolen car, shot and killed by white cops
-gave ambiguous details
-the students were told that other students believed to cops to be at blame
-initially students entered their opinions online, and were told the computers had crashed so
they were to answer aloud in front of the other students
-the ones who agreed online, then changed to no specific opinion in public to conform to the
general consensus
EX. Train surfing and drugs
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