Conformity

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Published on 22 Jul 2011
School
UTSC
Department
Psychology
Course
PSYB10H3
Conformity: Influencing Others
Conformity, a change in behavior as a result of the real or imagined influence of
other people
Informational Social Influence: The Need to Know Whats Right
Informational social influence, conforming because we believe that others
interpretation of an ambiguous situation is more correct than ours and will help us
choose an appropriate course of action
In a classic experiment by Muzafer Sherif; in the first phase of the study, you are
seated alone in a dark room and asked to focus your attention on a dot of light 5
meters away. The experimenter asks you to estimate in centimeters how far the light
moves. You stare earnestly at the light and, yes, it moves a little. You say about
5cm, though it is not easy to tell exactly
The interesting thing about his task is that the light was not actually moving
at all. It looked as if it was moving because of a visual illusion called the
autokinetic effect. If you stare at a bright light in a uniformly dark
environment, the light will appear to waver. This occurs because you have no
stable reference point to anchor the position of the light
The distance that the light appears to move varies from person to person but
comes consistent for each person over time
In Sherifs experiment, the participants all arrived at their own, stable
estimates during the first phase of the study, but these estimates differed
from person to person
In the second phase of the experiment, a few days later, the participants were
paired with two other people, each of whom had had the same prior
experience alone with the light
Over the course of several trials, people reached a common estimate, and each
member of the group conformed to that estimate
These results indicated that people were using each other as a source of
information, coming to believe that the group estimate was the correct one
An important feature of informational social influence is that is can lead to private
acceptance, conforming to other peoples behavior out of a genuine belief that what
they are doing or saying is right
Public compliance, conforming to other peoples behavior publicly, without
necessarily believing in what they are doing or saying
When Will People Conform to Informational Social Influence?
When the Situation is Ambiguous
When you are unsure of the correct response, the appropriate behavior, or the right
idea, you will be most open to influence from others
Research shows that the more uncertain you are, the more you will rely on others
When the Situation is Crisis
When the situation is a crisis, we usually do not have time to stop and think about
exactly which course of action we should take. We need to ask now
If we feel scared and panicky, and are uncertain what to do, it is only natural for us
to see how other people are responding
Orson Welles and his fellow actors put on a radio drama of a cataclysm the
invasion of Earth by hostile Martains that was so realistic and effective that at
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least 1 million listener in the United States became frightened, and several
thousand were panic-stricken
The result was a contagion the rapid transmission of emotions or behavior
through a crowd
When Other People Are Experts
The more expertise/knowledge a person has, the more valuable he or she will be as a
guide in an ambiguous or crisis situation
When Information Conformity Backfires
Mass psychogenic illness is the occurrence of similar physical symptoms in a
group of people for which there is no known physical or medical cause
What is particularly interesting about modern cases of mass psychogenic illness is
the powerful role that mass media play in their dissemination
Resisting Informational Social Influence
It is important to remember that it is possible to resist illegitimate or inaccurate
informational social influence
One reason that the decision about whether to conform is so important is that it
influences how people define reality. If you decide to accept other peoples definition
of a situation, you will come to see the world as they do. If you reject other peoples
definition of a situation, you will come to see the world differently from the way they
do
In on study, Roger Buehler and Dale Griffin asked students to read newspaper
reports of a real, highly controversial incident in which an African-Canadian
teenager was driving a stolen car what shot and killed by white police officers
Buehler and Griffin first asked participants how they interpreted the
situation. Each participant was then told that other participants believed
that the police were 75% responsible and the victim was 25% responsible
After indicating whether they agreed with this assessment, the participants
were told that their original responses had supposedly been lost in a
computer crash and were again asked how they interpreted the situation
The critical question was: Did participants now interpret the situation
differently, depending on whether they agreed with other peoples
assessments?
The first result of interest was that not everyone conformed to other peoples
views. Those who did conform to the groups opinion started out with more
police-blaming that those who did not
More importantly, peoples decision about whether to conform influence their
definition of the situation
People who agreed with the group that the police where mainly responsible
changed their interpretations to be consistent with the group opinion they
now believed that the victim had not threatened the police and that police
had not feared for their lives
The people who did not conform changed their interpretation, but in opposite
direction they now believed that the victims car was about to ram the police
and that the police were in fear for their lives
Normative Social Influence: The Need to be Accepted
We conform so we will be liked and accepted by other people. This is known as
normative social influence, the influence of other people that leads us to conform
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in order to be liked and accepted by them; this type of conformity results in public
compliance with but not necessarily with private acceptance of the groups beliefs
and behaviors
Groups have certain expectations about how the group members should behave, and
members in good standing conform to these rules, or social norms, the implicit or
explicit rules a group has for the acceptable behaviors, values, and beliefs of its
members
Leslie Janes and James Olson conducted a series of studies on what they call jeer
pressure. Participants observed someone either ridiculing another person or
engaging in self-ridicule. Those who observed someone else being ridiculed later
showed the greatest conformity to their peers
According to Janes and Olson, groups use ridicule as a means of punishing
group members who fail to comply with the groups norms. When we observe
someone else being ridiculed, we will be especially likely to go along with the
group in order to avoid being the next target
Conformity and Social Approval: The Asch Line Judgment Studies
Solomon Asch conducted a series of classic studies exploring the parameters of
normative social influence. Asch initiated this program of research because he
believed that there are limits to how much people will conform
Naturally, people conformed in the Sherif studies, he reasoned, given that the
situation was highly ambiguous trying to guess how much a light was moving.
Asch believed, however, that when a situation was completely unambiguous, people
would act like rational, objective problem solvers
Here is Aschs experiment on perceptual judgment: The experimenter shows
everyone two cards, one with a single line, the other with three lines, labeled 1, 2,
and 3. He asks each of you to announce aloud which of the three lines on the second
card is closest in length to the line on the first card. It is crystal clear that the
correct answer is the second line. Not surprisingly, each participant says, Line 2
and you say its line 2 as well. The last participant concurs
The experimenter presents the third set of lines and again the answer is
obvious line 3 is clearly the closest in length to the target line. But the first
participant announces that the correct answer is line 1. The second person
also announces that line 1 is the correct answer
Asch set up a situation to see if people would conform even when the right
answer was cut and dried. The other participants were actually accomplices
of the experimenter, instructed to give the wrong answer on 12 of the 18
trials. Contrary to what Asch thought would happen, a surprising amount of
conformity occurred: 76% of the participants conformed on at least one trial.
On average, people conformed on about one-third of the 12 trials on which the
accomplices gave the incorrect answer
Normative pressures usually result in public compliance without private acceptance
that is, people go along with the group even if they do not believe in what they are
doing or think it is wrong
In variation of Aschs study, he demonstrated the power of social disapproval in
shaping a persons behavior. The confederates gave the wrong answer 12 out of 18
times, as before, but this time the participants wrote their answers on a piece of
paper, instead of saying them out loud. Conformity dripped dramatically, occurring
on an average of only 1.5 of the 12 trials
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Document Summary

 conformity, a change in behavior as a result of the real or imagined influence of other people. I nformational social i nfluence: the need to know what"s right . Informational social influence, conforming because we believe that others interpretation of an ambiguous situation is more correct than ours and will help us choose an appropriate course of action. In a classic experiment by muzafer sherif; in the first phase of the study, you are seated alone in a dark room and asked to focus your attention on a dot of light 5 meters away. The experimenter asks you to estimate in centimeters how far the light moves. You stare earnestly at the light and, yes, it moves a little. 5cm, though it is not easy to tell exactly.  the interesting thing about his task is that the light was not actually moving at all.