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Chapter 7

Chapter 7 - Conformity: Influencing Others

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Elizabeth Page- Gould

Chapter 7Conformity Influencing OthersConformity When and Whyth Judgment on Mr Justice Macaulay on May 10 1999 begins with the statement Reena Virk died on November 14 1997 after a vicious beating During an exchange with Reena Virk a student extinguished a lit cigarette on her forehead Others joined in a beat Virk One girl testified that she grabbed a lighter and tried to set Vriks hair on fire others began punching and kicking her According to the pathologist Virks head injuried were severe enough to be life threateningconsidered the force of these injuries alone were severe enough to be life threatening She suffered massive internal injuriesconsidered to be the force of being run over by a car Unconscious she was dragged by Kelly Ellard and Warren Glowatski to the Gorge waterway close to Victoria where she was drowned Glowatski and Ellard were charged wiwh 2degree murder 6 other girls involved in the beating were given sentences ranging from 60day conditional sentence to 1 year in jail Under what conditions and for what reasons are we likely to fall under influence of others Conformity is a change in behaviour as a result of real or imagined influence of other people We maintain the belief that our behaviour is not influenced by others evenwhen reality suggests otherwise If the other student provided aselfassessment participants also evaluated themselvesmore so than if the other student had provided aselfassessment Most importantly participants were not aware that they had been influence by other students responseie the 74 deaths at Solar Templethis would be an unusual casemore people dont conform to this extent We should be able to find other situations in which people put under strong social pressures conform to surprising degrees Unfortunately we do not have to look very far to find such instances Rather than labeling conformity as good or bad the social psychologist is interested in why people conformInformational Social Influence The Need To Know Whats Rightie How do you address your psych prof As Dr Berman Professor Berman Ms Berman or Patricia How would you vote on a proposal to increase your tuition to expand student services Is the scream you just heard coming from a person joking with friends or from the victim of a mugging In these and many other everyday situations we feel uncertain about what to think or how to act We simply dont know enough to make a good or accurate choice Fortunately we have a powerful and useful source of knowledge available to usthe behaviour of other peopleThe influence of other people leads us to conform because we see them as a source of information to guide our behaviourInformational Social Influence conforming because we believe that othersinterpretation of an ambiguous situation is more correct than ours and will help us choose an appropriate course of actionst Ie classical experiment by Muzafer Sherif 1936 In 1 phase of study you are seated along in a dark room and asked to focus your attention on a dot of light 5m away The experimenter asks you to estimate in cms how far the light moves You saw About 5 cm The light disappears and then comes back you are asked to judge again The light seems to move a little more and you say 10 cm After several trials the light seemed to move about the same amount each time Actually the light was not moving at all It looked as if it was moving because of a visual illusion called the autokinetic effect when you satre at a right light I a uniformly dark environment the light looks like it wavers M Sherif did te same thing and people estimated it moved from 25 cm25 cm Sherif chose the autokinetic effect because he wanted a situation ndthat would be ambiguous In the 2 phase the participants were paired with another people After hearing their partners give judgments that were different form their own what did people do Over the course of several trial people reached a common estimate and each member of the group conformed to that estimatethe result indicates that people were using each other as a source of info coming to believe that the group estimate was the correct tone Some people might privately believe that the light was moving 25 cm abut announced publicly that is 75 cm This is a case of public compliance where a person conforms publicly without necessarily believing in what the group is saying or doing Research has shown that information conformity does occur in reallife situations Its also revealed another variable that affect informational social influence how important it is to the individual to be accurate at the taskWhen Will People Conform to Informational Social Influence What kinds of situations are most likely to produce conformity because of informational social influence When the Situation is Ambiguous For example hearing a fire alarm in the building What do you domost likely turn to other people around When you are unsure of the correct response the appropriate behaviour or the right idea you will be most open to influence form others Research shows the more uncertain you are the more you will rely on others When the Situation is a Crisis When a situation is a crisis we usually do not have time to stop and think so we naturally see how other people respond Sometimes people we imitate may also feel scared and panicky and nt behave rationally ie Halloween night in 1938 ORSON Welles the gifted ctor and future film director and Mercury Theatre broadcasted a radio play on HG Wells 1898 classic The War of the Worlds Welles and his fellow actors put on a radio drama of a cataclysmthe invasion of Earth by hostile martiansthat was so realistic and effective that at least 1 million listeners in the US became frightened and several thousand were panicstricken The result was a contagionthe rapid transmission of emotionsbehaviour through a crowd or in this case the listening audience Many people were listening with friends and family and naturally turned to each other out of uncertainty to see whether they should believe that they had heardie Luc Jouret a leader of the SOLAR Temple cult apparently was convinced the world was coming to and end and managed to persuade his followers that this was true They believed him when he said that death by fire was the correct course of action so they be reborn on the star Sirius Such instances of mind controlbrainwashing can actually be extreme cases of informational social influence 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 situationWhen Informational Conformity Backfire If other people are misinformed we will adopt their mistakes and misinterpretations An example of extreme and misdirected informational social influence is mass psychogenic illness occurrence of similar physical symptoms in a group of people for which there is no know physical or medical causeie the toxic bus case On May 25 2004 a mean disembarked form an Vancouver bus made a comment to the driver to the effect that the driver was about to have a bad day Soon after the driver began to feel nauseated and and started vomiting He checked to see if others felt that waya passenger behind him said he had a headache and thought there was a suspicious smell Fearing there was a chemical attack the driver initiated a distress call Others started to feel sick had a burning sensation in their yes 19 people were quarantined Vancouver police tried to find the man and found that the medical symptoms experienced were consistent with chemical poisoning He concluded that the symptoms were a case of mass psychogenic illness The allegation that the medical symptoms were brought on by anxiety over a possible chemical attack outraged the the paramedics who become ill Psychiatrists from Australia and Britain analyzed the toxic bus case concluded that the medical symptoms experienced were attributable to mass psychogenic illness Although the controversy continues the toxic bus case may be another example of informational conformity gone awry
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