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Chapter 8

Social Psychology (Cdn Ed) Sanderson & Safdar Chapter 8

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University of Toronto St. George
Ashley Waggoner Denton

Chapter 8: Social Influence, Conformity, Compliance and Obedience Social Norms: unspoken but shared rules of conduct in a formal or informal group Conformity: the tendency to change our perceptions, opinions, or behaviors in ways that are consistent with perceived group norms Compliance: changes in behavior that are caused by a direct request Obedience: behavior that is produced by the commands of authority figures How Do Social Norms Influence Behavior? -Study: asked Ss to read a very difficult article; told to see experimenter if they had problems in understanding the paper; no Ss in study asked experimenter a question but assumed that other students would ask questions; then later when asked about the factors that inhibited them and others from asking a question, Ss believed that their own behavior was motivated by fear of embarrassment but saw other ppls behavior as motivated by having greater understanding of article The Power of Social Norms -Descriptive Norms: norms that describe how ppl behave in a given situation • E.g. uni students following norms like how to spend Saturday nights, what types of clothes to wear -Injunctive Norms: norms that describe what people ought to do in a given situation (type of behavior that is approved in the situation) • E.g. Reporting cheating to professor (even if this norm doesn’t actually describe ppl’s typical behavior), not showing up naked in a classroom etc. -Study: teens asked to listen to songs and download songs; in one condition saw title of song and the number of times the songs had been downloaded by others and in the other condition received no info about songs; found that knowing how many other ppl had downloaded the song influenced how likely others were to download song -mass psychogenic illness: phenomenon in which large #s of ppl typically in relatively small and isolated group all report similar symptoms • Caused in part by ppl’s tendency to look to others to see how they should react in given situation – if others look anxious, “emotional contagion” may then occur -ppl quickly acquire norms of new environment even if they don’t know them when first enter environment • Ppl more likely to acquire norms when they’re in new situations (look to older/established group members to form their own attitudes and behaviors) -ppl are unaware of the impact of social influence: • Study: Ss asked about the frequency of their energy conservation measures, motivation for behavior and their beliefs about other ppls energy conservation behavior; found that beliefs about others energy conservation behavior were highly correlated with individual’s own behavior, but participants saw such norms as much less important in determining their behavior than other factors like protecting environment (not aware of influence) Errors in Perceiving Social Norms -Pluralistic Ignorance: particular type of norm misperception that occurs when each individual in the group privately rejects the group’s norms but believes that others accept these norms -e.g. go along with the norm because they falsely assume that others’ behavior has different cause (acceptance of norm) than one’s own behavior (fear of embarrassment) -e.g. when prof asks if students have questions, no one raises hand; each person assumes that everyone else really understands material, but ppl who have questions believe they’re the only one who isn’t raising their hand due to embarrassment -Study: Ss asked to imagine at a party, and introduced to person who could be potential romantic partner; asked to imagine that neither expressed interest in romantic relationship and to explain this lack of interest • Most ppl reported fear of rejection would explain their failure to express interest, but most believed that lack of interest from the other person would be explained by their lack of interest -Another study found that fear of rejection prompts individuals to exhibit signal amplification bias: ppl’s perception that their overtures (advances) communicate more romantic interest to potential partners than is actually the case -Study shows that uni students often believe that there is too much alcohol use on campus but wrongly believe that other students approve that amount of alcohol -men who believe that other men believe in rape myths (women often provoke rape through appearance, etc) are more likely to report behaving in sexually aggressive way -pluralistic ignorance causes less interaction between members of diff ethnic groups: members of each group would like to have more contact with other ethnic groups, but believe that this interest is not shared by members of other ethnic groups The Pressure to Conform to Social Norms -ppl who deviate from the norm often have negative consequences like embarrassment, awkwardness or hostile behavior from others -Study: Ss in group decision making task, were asked to read about a case of juvenile delinquent and determine appropriate punishment for him; three confederates: “mode” (went along with group position throughout); “slider” (initially chose deviating position than moved toward group modal position); “deviate” (chose position of extreme deviation throughout); Ss then rated each person in group and ppl liked the deviate least -watching someone else experience rejection can lead to greater conformity • Study: Ss watched video where one person made fun of another person’s appearance, person made fun of himself, or video where comedian made jokes that were not directed at anyone (control); then watched cartoon and rated how funny they thought it was • Before rating, learned that other students rated the cartoon as very funny (even though it was not) • Those who had watched self-ridicule tape rated cartoon as not funny; those who watched tape that ridiculed someone else conformed and thought cartoon was funny -learning about other ppl’s behavior is effective at changing behavior (study about reusing towels) -norm-based education campaigns are effective: • Campaigns to reduce binge drinking on uni campuses that emphasize the msg that most students have few drinks when party are effective -giving ppl accurate info about various norms can reduce misperceptions and improve health What Factors Lead to Conformity? -Study: male confederate made sexist remark in front of female Ss; few actually responded with direct verbal comment afterwards but most had negative thoughts about the person who made the remark (concern about social pressures and costs of responding directly influenced their behavior) -Private Conformity: when ppl rethink their original views, and potentially change their mind to match what the group thinks -Public Conformity: when ppl’s over behaviors are in line with groups norms (even though in reality might disagree with group) Why We Conform 1. Information Influence o Informational Influence: the influence that produces conformity when a person believes others are correct in their judgments, and person wants to be right o occurs when you are new to situation and look to others for accurate info (e.g. new student, asking older student thoughts about given course) o Study: autokinetic effect (when stationary dot of light shown on wall in dark room, dot appears to move when it doesn’t); when Ss are alone in room and asked to guess how far moving, guesses differ greatly but when in group, the estimates converge over time o showed private conformity: when tested alone again after being in group, estimates of dot movement remained close to group norms (they believed the group was right) o Study: four person group for autokinetic effect; confederates established arbitrary norm; group had only one real Ss; then after task, had break and one confederate replaced by real Ss; by fourth trial, all group members were real Ss; the process took 11 changes before group norm started to shift; shows that norms develop within a group and are resistant to change; continue to influence group members long after those who instigated norm are gone 2. Normative Influence • Normative Influence: the influence that produces conformity when a person fears the negative social consequences for appearing deviant • E.g. in group, if you are not smoker but everyone is smoking, you accept cigarette and smoke • Study (Asch): Ss joined a group that were shown cards with lines on them; the other group members were confederates; gave wrong answers that were clearly wrong; more participants answered incorrectly when the rest of group gave wrong answer • Shows public conformity: ppl conformed because they want to publicly agree with others Factors that Increase Conformity 1. Group Size o Larger groups exert more powerful influence; in Asch experiment, when Ss responded in presence of one confederate, no one gave wrong answer but opposition increased to two ppl, % giving wrong answer increased • But additional increases beyond 4 did not increase conformity (e.g. group of 17 not better than 4) o Group size is more important when influence was normative rather than informational o Ppl who held minority opinion expressed their views less quickly than those expressing majority viewpoint (and larger the number of ppl holding majority view, longer delay before individual express minority view) o Social Impact Theory: says that people we are close to have more impact on us than those who are more distant • Explains why as uni student you increasingly conform to norms of uni more than high school norms o We conform more in the presence of powerful and vocal group members o We conform more in groups that are attractive to us • Study: 2 gen immigrants tend to want to feel part of wider society; Chinese Canadian uni students had to judge abstract paintings; some performed task in mirror (making physical appearance salient); also provided with normative ratings from European Canadians, Chinese Canadians and Nigerians; those who performed in front of mirror (reminded of Chinese ethnicity) aligned themselves with the Euro-Canadian majority by shifting ratings toward this majority 2. Standing Alone o The biggest predictor of conformity is whether participant must take lone deviant position o Asch’s experiment: when another person in group gave truthful answer, conformity drastically reduced (even after “supporter” left the room, Ss better able to resist pressure to conform) o When another person in the group gave another more extreme wrong answer, pressure to conform decreased 3. Demographic Variables o Demographic Variable: varying characteristics of an individual, sample group or population o Conformity highest in adolescence, lower in children and older adults o Women more likely than men to agree with others in group decision making tasks and less likely to dissent from group • But, both men and women likely to conform in unfamiliar situations (e.g. men conform more in conversations about child rearing etc.) • Gender roles related to conformity: ppl with more masculine gender rules (regardless of gender) conform less than ppl with feminine gender roles • Women more influenced by face to face persuasion attempts than email; men show no difference in how they respond to distant vs. direct persuasion attempts 4. Motivation o Task importance influences conformity: on easy tasks, ppl don’t need to look to group members for answer; on harder tasks, may feel less sure about answer o Study: Ss placed in groups of 3; 2/3 were confederates; group saw pics of person committing crime and had to pick suspect from lineup of pictures; confederates chose wrong person from lineup • In cases of low motivation (told that this is pilot test) students conformed little regardless of difficult of task • In cases of high motivation (could receive extra cash), conformed rarely on easy task but conformed frequently on difficult tasks o Study: social motives to influence conformity different between men and women; Ss asked to imagine anxiety provoking situation prior to rating images and in other condition, asked to imagine romantic situation; both men and women who imagine anxiety provoking situation showed greater conformity; but imagine romantic situation, women showed more conformity but for men, les to lower levels of conformity The Power of Minority Influence -Minority Influence: a process in which a small # of ppl in a group lead an overall change in the group’s attitude or behavior; much less common than majority influence -Study: reverse Asch paradigm, having minority of two confederates influence majority of four naïve participants • Stimuli was 36 colored slides, all of them blue; Ss in consistent condition (two confederates described all slides as green), inconsistent condition (described 24 as green and the remaining as blue); control condition (no confederates) • Consistent condition showed the greatest yielding to minority influence, but less in quantitative terms than produced by majority in Ash study • Follow up showed that both experimental groups were more likely to report ambiguous blue/green slides as green than control (suggests that minority influence is more lasting than behavioral conformity produced by studies on majority influence) • Moscovici says this study demonstrates difference between conversion (genuine change in belief) and mere conformity (different type of influence) o Corresponds with distinction between normative and informational influence, with majorities said to exert more of the normative influence and minorities more of the normative influence o Supported by study in which Ss not only gave judgement on color of slide (blue or green) but the color of the after image that they saw on it (if blue, the after image should be yellow, green should be red/purple etc) o Those exposed to minority influence reported after-image closer to purple end of spectrum, suggesting that the influence was at unconscious level -consistency of minority’s position increases power of minority influence: ppl who are unwavering in their view attract attention from others and make argument especially salient -when person is very firm in his beliefs, it can make others think that he/she might actually be right -majorities usually influence ppl by eliciting public conformity (ppl don’t want to appear deviant from norm) but minorities lead to private conformity, which occurs when ppl rethink their original views and change their minds -minority influence is more effective when delivered by person who is already well established within a group, bc certain amount of acceptance has already been granted to them • Study: students w/ moderate views on abortion were exposed to msgs by ingroup (same uni students) or outgroup members (diff uni students); those who heard minority views from members of ingroup more likely to be persuaded • Minority opinions expressed by ingroup members are seen more positively and subjected to less counterargument -minority influence is weaker in large groups than in small ones (in line with social impact theory) -minority influence can be beneficial in the quality of decision (leads to expression of wider range of arguments and more original arguments from diff perspectives; hearing about minority viewpoint leads to newer and more original thoughts) -minority msgs are processed more extensively, particularly when they oppose recipient’s attitude Benefits of Conformity -conformity can be used for worthwhile purposes (e.g. frat that mandates community service, uni that reject racist/sexist attitudes etc.) -seeing someone else picking up litter in parking lot reduces % of ppl who throw flyers from their windshield on the ground What Factors Lead to Compliance? -Study: Ss in study met someone (confederate) who they believed to be another Ss; confederate announced same b-day as Ss; then confederate asked each Ss for favor, to read eight page essay for English class and provide critique; more of Ss who believed they shared bday with confederate agreed than those who believed they didn’t share bday • Sharing first
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