PSYB10H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 7: Mass Psychogenic Illness

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30 Sep 2011

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Conformity: When and Why
Conformity- a change in behaviour as a result of the real or imagined
influence of others
Individualistic culture emphasizes being independent, thinking for
yourself, and standing up for yourself
oResult: we maintain belief that our behaviour is not influenced
by others
Informational Social Influence: The Need to Know what’s “Right”
One important things we get from interacting with others is
oThe social world is ambiguous and ill-defined
oFortunately, we have a powerful and useful source of knowledge
available to us—the behaviour of other people
The influence of other people leads us to conform because we see
them as a source of information to guide our behaviour in which refer
to as informational social influence
oAn experiment where you are seated in a dark room and asked
to estimate in cm how far the light moves. You estimate a
distance, when in fact the light is not moving at all—due to
autokinetic effect
oThen you are put in a dark room with other participants and
same procedure was carried out
oResult: people were using each other as a source of information,
coming to believe that the group estimate was the correct one—
in this ambiguous setting
Private acceptance is conforming to other people’s behaviour out of
a genuine belief that what they are doing or saying is right (believing
that the group estimate was right)
People are still able to have a private acceptance but publicly
conformed in which would be a case of public compliance, whereby
conforming to other people’s behaviour publicly without necessarily
believing what they are doing or saying
Another variable affects informational social influence: how important
it is to the individual to be accurate at the task
oThose who believe the task is more important are more likely to
When Will People Conform to Informational Social Influence?
When the Situation is Ambiguous
When you are unsure of the correct response, the appropriate
behaviour or the right idea, you will be more open to influence from
When the Situation is a Crisis
In a scared and panicky situation, we see how other people are
responding—unfortunately the people we imitate may also feel scared
and panicky
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oE.g. a radio play on the War of the Worlds that was realistic and
effective that at least 1 million listeners in the U.S. became
frightened and were panic-stricken
oThe result was so contagion- the rapid transmission of emotions
or behaviours through a crowd
When Other People are Experts
The more expertise or knowledge a person has, the more valuable he
or she will be as a guide in an ambiguous or crisis situation
oE.g. A passenger who sees smoke coming from an airplane
engine will most likely turn to the flight attendant rather than
the other passenger
When Informational Conformity Backfires
If people are misinformed, we will adopt their mistakes and
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
Resisting Informational Social Influence
Instead of relying on others and being caught up in the contagion and
mass panic, they searched for and found information on their own
One reason that the decision about whether to conform is so important
is that it influences how people define reality
Normative Social Influence: The Need to Be Accepted
We also conform so we will be liked and accepted by other people—
known as normative social influence
This type of conformity results in public compliance with the groups
beliefs and behaviours but not necessarily in private acceptance
Through interactions with others, we receive emotional support,
affection, and love when we partake of enjoyable experiences
Social norms are the implicit or explicit rules a group has for the
acceptable behaviours, values and beliefs of its members
oThose who don’t behave in accordance, will be ridiculed,
punished or rejected
Conformity and Social Approval: The Asch Line Judgment Studies
Solomon Asch conducted a series of classic studies exploring the
parameters of normative social influence
Participant given a scenario: the experimenter shows everyone two
cards, one with a single line and the other with three lines, labeled 1,2,
and 3
It is crystal clear what the correct answer is but in the presence of
other 6 participants who says the wrong answer, you are most likely to
conform and say the wrong answer
o76% of participants conformed on at least one trial
Possibilities why people conformed:
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