CH 8 CONFORMITY
1. Informational Social
Why do we conform? - Conformity changing one’s behaviour due to the real or imagined influence of
Informational social influence - Informational social influence: conforming because we believe that others’
interpretation of an ambiguous situation is more accurate than ours and will help
us choose an appropriate course of action.
Muzafer Sherif - You are seated alone in a dark room and asked to focus your attention on a dot
of light and you’re asked to estimate in inches how far the light moves
- The light disappears and comes back and you’re asked to judge how much it
- The light isn’t actually moving – it was an illusion where if you stare at a bright
light in dark environment, it will appear to waver back and forth because you
don’t have a stable reference point to anchor the light’s position.
- The distance the light ‘moves’ varies from person to person but is stable for each
person ondr time
- In the 2 phase of the experiment, participants were paired with 2 other people
who had the same prior experience with the light and all 3 made judgements out
- Over several trials, people reached a common estimate and each person
Types of Conformity
Private acceptance - This can lead to private acceptance when people conform to the behaviour
because they genuinely believe that others are right.
Public conformance o Compare this to public conformance: conforming without actually
believing what the group is saying or doing
The need to be accurate - Ps asked to pick perpetrators out of lineups
Eyewitness identification task - For each of the 13 tasks, participants shown a slide of a man (perpetrator) and
then a lineup of 4 men
- In the lineup, the perpetrator was dressed differently and the task was difficult
because Ps only saw slide for half a second
o High importance condition: Those who scored the highest received
o Low importance: Ps were told the study was a first attempt to study
eyewitness identification and the slide task was still being developed
- High importance decisions makes you more susceptible to informational social
- In the low condition, Ps conformed and gave the same wrong answers on 35% of
the trials whereas in the high importance condition, Ps conformed on 51% of the
African American teenager +
Stolen Car Task - 4 Ps in a session sat at a monitor in the same room and read a controversial
Buehler & Griffin incident about an African American teenager driving a stolen car was shot and
killed by white police men
- Asked to interpret the situation : how fast was the victim’s car going? Was the
victim trying to ram the car?
o Do you agree that the police was 75% responsible, the victim 25%
- 3 Ps said yes
- When a computer crash was faked, Ps were given a 2 chance to answer and
this time, 40% said yes
- Those who agreed changed their interpretations to be consistent with the group:
victim hadn’t threatened the police and the police lives weren’t put in danger
- Those who didn’t conform changed their interpretations by said victim’s car was
about to ram the police and the police was in fear of their lives.
- People changed their interpretations of reality to bolster their decision whether
to agree with the majority opinion. When Informational - When one’s personal safety is involved, the need for information is acute
War of the Worlds - Broadcast a radio play based on War of the Worlds and at this time, radio was
Orson Welles the only source for breaking news
- So realistic that at least a million listeners became frightened and alerted the
- Many listeners missed the beginning because they had been listening to the
nation’s top-rated show, so they didn’t hear it was a play
- Many people were listening with friends and family and saw concern on others’
- Listeners misinterpreted actual events so they fit the news on the radio (e.g.
looking out the window and there were a lot of cars = escaping people)
Contagion - Contagion is how emotions and behaviour can spread rapidly through a crowd
Mass Psychogenic illness - Mass psychogenic illness: occurrence of similar physical symptoms with no
known physical cause
When do people conform? 1. When the situation is ambiguous
- Unsureness makes you rely on others
o Ex. My Lai, soldiers were young and unexperienced
2. Situation is a crisis
- Need to act immedietly, so you don’t have time to think
o It was difficult to tell if people were civilians or combatants in
Vietnam, so when one soldier fired, others followed
3. When others are experts
- The more expertise a person has, the more valuable as a guide they’ll be
2. Normative Social
Influence: the need to be - We conform to the group’s social norms, which are implicit rules for acceptable
accepted behaviors, values and beliefs
Normative social - Normative social influence occurs when the influence of other people leads us
influence to conform to be liked and accepted by them. This results in public compliance
with group’s beliefs but not necessarily in private acceptance.
Line judgment studies
Solomon Asch - Ps were told this was an experiment on perceptual judgment
- The experimenter shows everyone 2 cards, one with a single line on it, the other
with 3 lines labeled 1,2, and 3
- You give your answer and everyone gives the same answer
- When your mind starts to wander, the experimenter presents another set of linds
but the first Ps announces the correct answer is line 1, followed by the 2 person
- 76%of the Ps conformed on at least one trial
- It wasn’t like the situation was ambiguous but the fear of being the lone
dissenter was so strong that people conformed at least occasionally.
Biological evidence of Normative
Gregory Berns - Used fMRI to examine the alterations in brain activity of research Ps as they
conformed or maintained their independence and disagreed with the group
- Ps were shown an image of a 3D figure and asked if a second figure (rotated in a
different direction) was the same as the first figure or different
- Before being placed in the fMRI, Ps interacted with 4 Ps
- During the task, the Ps completed one-third of the trials with no knowledge of
the answers of the other 4, on the remaining 2/3 the Ps saw the 4 group
members’ answers on a display
- ½ the time, the group had all chosen the wrong answer
- Ps conformed to the wrong answers 41% of the time
- On the baseline trials, Ps fMRI had brain activity in the posterior brain areas
dedicated to vision and perception
- When conforming to wrong answers, activation occurred in the same area
- When giving the right answer, the visual/perceptual areas weren’t activated and
the amygdala (negative emotions) and caudate nucleus (social behaviour) were
Baron - Ps viewed each slide for 5 s and shown each slide twice to make it easy, the controls answered correctly 97% of the time
- Half thought it was very important they give the right answers and the other half
- Found that low importance condition conformed on 33%
- High importance condition conformed on only 16%
Resisting Normative Social
Juvenile delinquent experiment - Groups of college students read and discussed a case history of ‘Johnny Rocco’,
Stanley Schachter a juvenile delinquent.
- Most students believed Rocco should receive a mixture of love and discipline
- An accomplice was instructed to disagree with the group and argued Rocco
should receive the harshest amount of punishment
- He received the most comments and questions from real Ps throughout the
discussion until near the end, communication dropped sharply.
- When they tried to convince the deviant to agree, and he didn’t, they ignored
him. In addition, they punished him when filling out forms that asked to
nominate a member who should be eliminated from further discussion, they
nominated him. As well, when assigning jobs, they gave the deviant unimportant
or boring jobs.
Idiosyncrasy credits - Idiosyncrasy credits: the tolerance a person earns over time by conforming that
when they behave on occasion deviantly, they won’t get into too much trouble.
When will people conform to
Normative social influence?
Latane - Social impact theory: the likelihood that you’ll respond to social influence from
other people depends on 3 variables:
- How important to you is the group?
- Normative pressures are stronger when they come from people hose friendship,
love, and respect we cherish because there’s a large cost to losing this love and
- How close is the group to you in space and time during the attempt to influence
- How many people are in the group?
- Predicts that conformity will increase as strength and immediacy increase
- However, as number increases, each additional person has less of an influencing
o Ex. A group of 3-4 makes more of a difference than going from 53 to
o Once the number of people reaches 4-5 people, conformity doesn’t
- Having an ally helped the subject resist normative pressures where people
conformed only 6% of the trials with an ally compared to 32% percent
- The society that one is raised in affects the frequency of normative social
- Participants in collectivistic cultures showed higher rates of conformity on the
line task than Ps in individualistic cultures.
- J.W. Berry compared 2 cultures that had very different strategies for
accumulating food. Hypothesized that societies that relied on hunting would
value independence, assertiveness, and adventurousness in their members.
- Compared Inuit people to Temne of Sierra Leone.
- Temne had a tendency to accept the suggestions of the group while the Inuit did
Gender Differences in Conformity not.
- Women are more conforming than men but recent studies showed that this
difference was very small
- Gender differences are likely to be found in group pressure situations where an
audience can directly observe how much you conform
- When facing social pressure, women are more likely to conform than men
- In our society, women are taught to be agreeable and supportive Minority Influence - The individual or the minority of group members can influence the behaviour or
Serge Moscovici beliefs of the majority.
- If the minority expresses a consistent, unwavering view, the majority is likely to
take notice and may even adopt the minority view.
o If a minority of scientists began to raise concerns about global
warming, today the majority is paying attention.
- Majorities often achieve private compliance because of normative social
influence whereas minorities often achieve private acceptance because of
informational social influence.
3. Using Social Influence to
- First we need to focus on what kind of norm is operating in the situation, then