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Chapter 6

PSYCH253 Chapter Notes - Chapter 6: Jaywalking, Extermination Camp, Suggestibility

Course Code
Hilary B Bergsieker

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Psych. 253
Social Psych.
Chapter 6
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
- 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

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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
- 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

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- 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
- 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
- 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
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