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Chapter 6

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University of Waterloo
Hilary B Bergsieker

Psych. 253 Social Psych. Chapter 6 Conformity What is Conformity? - Due to the individualistic Western cultures, North American and European social psychologists give conformity negative labels like submission and compliance rather than the positive ones such as communal, sensitivity, responsiveness and cooperative team play - In japan, conforming is a sign of tolerance, self-control and maturity and leads to harmony because people know exactly what to expect from one another. - Conformity is a change in behavior or belief to accord with others. Believing one thing on your own, and another when in crowd or group, acting and thinking differently in a crowd or group than you would on your own - Three varieties of conformity include compliance, obedience and acceptance o Compliance – conformity that involves publicly actin gin accord with social pressure while privately disagreeing o Obedience – acting in accord with a direct order o Acceptance – conformity that involves both acting and believing in accord with social pressure (acceptance sometimes follows obedience; attitudes follow behavior) What are the Classic Conformity and Obedience Studies? - Some studies gave startling findings that many others replicated the studies. These studies are termed “classic” experiments Sherif’s Studies of Norm Formation - Sherif wanted to isolate and then experiment with the social phenomenon of norm formation - He used an optical illusion called an autokinetic phenomenon in which there was a light in a dark room that doesn’t move but looks like it does. o He placed participants in that room and asked them to estimate how much the light moves and does a couple of trials, and then for the next time, he has participants placed in a room in groups and sees how drastically peoples estimates change when they are in a group, and how they conform to the norm within the group estimate. When tested a year later, people still followed the group norm estimate - In another experiment, Robert Jacobs and Donald Campbell had a confederate with the participants give a false estimate, and then when the confederate left and other participants came in, the previous participants false estimate (reflective of the confederate) seemed to be passed down for at least 5 generations of participants  our views of reality are not ours alone. - Suggestibility can be seen in everyday life in things such as laughing, yawning or coughing. Also, when we are around happier people, we tend to be happier. British nurses and accountants in work groups in a study shared up and down moods. Mood Linkage - The chameleon effect – in another experiment, when participants were sitting next to a confederate that scratched their cheek or shook their foot, the participants would mirror that behavior unintentionally and automatically - People that mimic our behavior seem more likable to us, being mimicked seems to enhance social bonds. In an experiment, students were invited to try a sports drink, the students whose postures and movements were delayed were more likely at the end to consume the new drink and say they would buy it - Newspapers reporting car windshield damage 125 km away and slowly ending up reaching the city and the police department received 3000 reports of damage to windshields. Next day another newspaper hinted that the mass culprit was suggestibility, that the pitted windshields was not the problem, it was just ordinary road damage, after people read this report, then they started to actually look at their windshield rather than through it at the road and realized their windshields were fine. - Suggestibility can also lead to bad things, such as hijackings, UFO sightings and even suicides that tend to come in waves - Book written by Johan Wolfgang von Goethe led to weird fashion sense that mirrored the character in the book, later some young men also mirrored the main characters behavior by committing suicide when they failed to win the heart of a woman like the character (Werther) that shoots himself  suicides that start by imitation now are described as “the Werther effect” - The more publicized a suicide is, the greater the increase in later fatalities (Following Marilyn Monroe’s suicide in August, 1962, there were 200 more august suicides than normal) - In both Germany and the United States, suicide rates increase after fictional suicides on soap operas or even after serious dramas that focus on the suicide problem. Teenagers are most susceptible and the reason why there are occasional clusters of teen copycat suicides - After Saddam Hussein’s widely publicized hanging, boys in at least five countries tried or successfully did hang themselves Asch’s Studies of Group Pressure (conformity) - As a boy, Asch remembers the traditional Jewish seder at Passover when the prophet Elijah visits every Jewish home and takes a sip of wine and his uncle told him that if he was to observe the cup, he would see that it was true and to Asch’s surprise, he did see wine in the cup go down a little - Asch recreated his boyhood experience in the lab with a study of perceptual judgment. Participants had to look at a line and see which of the three line choices best matched the original line; the answer is always obvious. Confederates were also placed in the study with the participant. The first three or two trials, the confederates who pick before the participant, select the correct answer; they then start selecting the wrong answer. The participant starts experiencing an epistemological dilemma of being unable to decide if all of those people that answered previously were right or if what they see is right - 99% of the participants selected the right answers when there were no confederates involved, but when they were involved, ¾ conformed at least once to the confederates’ answers. - Both Asch’s experiment and Sherif’s experiment had experimental realism to them. The results for both experiments are shocking because they involved no obvious pressure to conform; people were not rewarded for team play or punished for individuality - Stanley Milgram wondered if people conformed without being coerced, would normal people be willing to do evil acts if coerced to do so? Milgram’s Obedience Studies - Participants deliver shock to another participant who is actually a confederate acting like they are in pain when they receive a shock. They start with low dose and slowly increase and the screams of those receiving the shocks also increase. Another person, the experimenter, stays in the room and asks the participant to continue shocking with every wrong answer and is someone who looks to be an authoritative figure - Milgrim wanted to test how many people would continue up to the dangerous 450 Volts when asked by an authoritative figure or told by the figure that they must continue the experiment - Found that 65% of the participants went all the way to 450 Volts! Those who stopped usually did so at the 150 V point - Milgram originally wanted to do his experiment in Germany to see if culture would have an effect on the results, but was disturbed by the results of the experiment and instead made the learner’s protests even more compelling o The teacher (participant) heard the learner mention their heart condition when they are being strapped down and this didn’t change the results (63% still complied) - Ten later studies found that women’s compliance rates were similar to men (in the above, all of the participants in Milgram’s original experiment were men between the ages of 20 – 50) The Ethics of Milgram’s Studies - Some social psychologists believe that Milgram stressed his participants against their will, and many of them did experience agony (they sweated, trembled, stuttered, bit their lips, groaned, or even broke into uncontrollable nervous laughter) - Critics argued that the participants’ self-concepts may have been altered and Milgram was even referred to as the Nazi death camp administrator Adolf Eichmann by a wife of a participant. - In his own defense, Milgram points out the lessons taught by his experiment and after when participants were told about the experiment and surveyed, 84% were glad to have participated and only 1% regretted - Further, a year later when a psychiatrist interviewed 40 of the most stressed out participants at the time of the experiment, it was concluded that none of them were harmed - Milgram felt that the ethical controversy was “terribly overblown” and compared the stress caused to participants during the experiment to being less than the effects on self-esteem that course examinations in university have on students What Breeds Obedience? - Four factors were changed during the experiment by Milgram, and they determined the level of obedience: o The victim’s emotional distance o The authority’s closeness and legitimacy o Whether or not the authority was part of a respected institution, and o The liberating effects of a disobedient fellow participant The Victim’s Distance - When the learners (those getting the shock) couldn’t be seen or no complaints were heard, nearly all teachers (participants, those giving the shocks) complied fully (to the 450V shock). When learner was in the same room as the teacher, 40% of the people complied fully and when the teachers had to hold down the hand of the learner to the shock plate, 30% complied fully. - In real life, it is easy to abuse someone online where they are distant or depersonalized than it is face to face. Soldiers are allowed, according to the ethics of war, to bomb helpless villages from 13 000 meters away but will not shoot the same helpless villager - When the Holocaust began, some Nazis were shaken up by the experience of face-to-face killing this led Heinrich Himmler to invent concrete gas chambers where would not see or hear the consequences of the horror they were doing - On the positive side, people act compassionately towards that which is personal; pregnant women who have seen an ultrasound picture of their fetus that clearly displayed body parts expressed more commitment to their pregnancy Closeness and Legitimacy of the Authority - When Milgram gave commands by telephone, full obedience dropped to 21%, when Milgram was present in the room, obedience increased. - Another change in the study had the experimenter leave the room to take rigged call and clerk came and took his place, and when this happened, 80% of the teachers did not comply - A similar study took place with nurses getting a phone call from an authorized doctor asking them to administer an overdose of a drug to a patient. When nurses were asked before the experiment if they would do it, nearly all of them said they wouldn’t, but in the actual experiment, 21 out of 22 nurses obeyed without delay to administer the drug - The case of “rectal earache” where a doctor abbreviates “place in right ear” with “place in R ear” and the compliant nurse put the required drops in the compliant patient’s rectum - The scam reported by 70 fast-food restaurant managers between 1995 and 2006. The managers received phone calls from a supposed officer who gave them a description of some workers description and were told they stole something and this lead to the manager doing a strip search of the employee. The managers didn’t want to strip search but they did it because they feared disobedience might mean losing their jobs or going to jail. One teen that worked at McDonald’s, after going through humiliation by a manager, sued McDonald’s claiming they had not adequately forewarned staff of the scam and was awarded $6.1 million. Institutional Authority - When Milgram did his study in Bridgeport, Connecticut instead of Yale, the obedience rate dropped from 65% to 48% The Liberating Effects of Group Influence - Conformity can also be constructive, like the heroic figures that rushed into the World Trace Center towers to save people, they were “partly obeying their superiors, partly conforming to extraordinary group loyalty” - Conformity can occasionally have liberating effects: when two confederates that opposed the experimenter were placed in the same room as the teacher (participant), and the confederates defied the experimenter, 90% of the participant did not obey the experimenter and conformed to the defiant confederates Reflections of the Classic Studies - One of the responses to Milgram’s study is a soldier saying they were simply obeying the official in charge, and same with those who followed the Nazi regime. - The “safe” scientific contexts of the obedience studies differ from the wartime contexts, brutality of war and genocide goes beyond obedience - The difference between the obedience studies and other conformity studies is that there is no social pressure, obedience is explicitly commanded and without that coercion, people did not act cruelly - Asch and Milgram’s studies show how compliance can take precedence over moral sense, they were able to pressure people to go against their own conscience. o They sensitized us to moral conflicts in our own lives o They illustrated and affirmed some familiar social psychology principles: the link between behavior and attitudes and the power of the situation Behavior and Attitudes - Attitudes are a bad reflection of behavior when external factors are in play and this was seen in Asch’s study where the subjects gave nearly all correct answers when alone but did differently when in a group - In the obedience study, participants are faced with either a desire to avoid doing harm and a desire to be a good participant and a surprising number chose to obey - Also seen in Milgram’s study is the foot in the door phenomenon, if participants were asked to administer a high dose of shock the first time itself, they probably would not have continued with the study like most had when slowly increasing the dosage of shock o The participants were in a difference psychological state in the middle or so of the experiment after having delivered successive shocks than they were at the beginning o External behavior and internal disposition can feed one another, sometimes n an escalating spiral o Milgram reported that
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