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Chapter 6

PSYC 231 Chapter Notes - Chapter 6: Fundamental Attribution Error, Stationary Point, Suggestibility

Course Code
PSYC 231
Carrie Kobelsky

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conformity: a change in behaviour or belief to accord with others
-determined whether or not you actually conforming if your behaviour
would have otherwise been different apart from the group
-different types of compliance:
(i) compliance: publicly acting in accord with social pressure while
privately disagreeing
(ii) obedience: acting in accord with a direct order from someone
(iii) acceptance: acting & believing in accord with social pressure
acceptance sometimes follows compliance
conformity & obedience studies — examples of classes experiments:
(a) Sherif’s studies of norm formation — assessed the suggestibility of
participants regarding the movement of light, & found that people
conform to the norms/actions of the group
-auto-kinetic phenomenon: (self-motion) the apparent
movement of a stationary point of light in the dark
-displayed that our views of reality are not ours alone
-(ex. we interpret events differently after hearing from others, we
appreciate a taste food because others love it, we yawn when we
see someone else does, laugh tracks during shows, copy-cats)
-mood linkage: being around happy people can make us happier
(b) Asch’s studies of group pressure — assesses participant’s agreement
with others’ obviously wrong perceptual judgments
-if everyone else gives a (wrong answer) people will agree, even if
they think differently
-if even 1 other person strays, people will then give their original,
true answer, even if it strays from everyone else — they will not
admit though that the fact that someone else strayed motivated
them to be able to also do so
-determined that most people tell the truth even when others are
not, although some people are compliant in response to minimal
pressure when they feel it could raise questions about their
education &/or values that guide our behaviour
-(ex. doing as other do, or following fads)
(c) Milgram’s obedience studies — tested what happens when demands
of authority coach with the demand of conscience, by getting
participants to comply with commands to shock another
-(ex. soldiers or employees following questionable orders)
-ethics of Milgram’s studies:
he inflicted cruelty on the participants
the experience potentially altered participants’ self-concepts
experiment offered invaluable amount of educational value
it lacks evidence of any actual psychological harm, because
after participants were debriefed, none had long-lasting
symptoms & they agreed with the study
-4 factors determined participant’s level of obedience:
(i) the victim’s distance — easier to act with most
obedience & least compassion when you cannot see who
you are harming
the effect of depersonalization
(ii) closeness & legitimacy of authority — the physical
presence of an authority makes you more likely to obey
the person has to appear to be legitimate too, in order
for obedience to remain high
(iii) institutional authority — the reputation & status of the
location (Yale) influences participants obedience
(iv) the liberating effects of group influence — loyalty to
one’s group can be constructive or heroic
-these classic obedience studies illustrated & affirmed the:
link between behaviour & attitudes is weak when external
influences (ex. social norms, behaviours of other participants, the
experimenter’s authoritative presence) are overwhelming
immediate situational forces are powerful, & reveals the strength of
the social context — when we try to break social constraints, we see
just how powerful they really are
-saying what we would do in a hypothetical situation is must easier
than actually doing in a real situation
-under the sway of evil forces, even nice people are corrupted as
they construct moral rationalizations for immoral behaviour
-a gradual drift towards evil usually occurs in small increments,
without any conscious intent of evil
-does not excuse the behaviour though…
importance of avoiding committing the fundamental attribution
error — the behaviour of the people in these studies were influenced
by situational factors, not just their personal dispositions
what predicts conformity — predicted by 6 conditions:
(i) group size — 3-5 people elicit more conformity than just 1 or 2, but
increasing the # of people beyond 5 doesn’t produce a large change
-the agreement of several small groups makes a position more
credible than the agreement of one large group
(ii) unanimity — reduces conformity when the belief is not unanimous
(even when just 1 person does not conform with the rest of the group)
(iii) cohesion — the feeling of “we” that enhances conformity
-cohesiveness: the extent to which a group are bonded together
(iv) status — higher-status people have more impact & thus have higher
rates of obedience towards them
(v) public response — it is easier to voice your own opinions privately
than having to do so in front of the group
(vi) no prior commitment — if you dont have an opinion yet, you are
more likely to conform to everyone else’s
-once people have made a public commitment, they are more
likely to stick with it than conform
why we conform — 2 major possibilities for why we conform:
(a) normative influence: conformity based on a person’s desire to fulfill
other’s expectations, gain acceptance, & avoid rejection
-comes from our desire to be liked
-“going with the crowd” — leads to public compliance
-greater when people respond in front of a group
(b) informational influence: conforming to others because they seem
like a valuable source of informational in ambiguous situations
-comes from our desire to be right
-leads to private acceptance
-greater when people feel incompetent, the task is difficult, or they
only care about being right
-both often occur together though in everyday life — the act of
conforming (driven by normative influence) often leads people to interpret
the situation differently (informational influence)
who conforms — 3 predictors of who is more likely to conform:
(a) personality — usually poor at predicting behaviour, except when:
-principle of aggregation — when a person’s average behaviour is look
at over time
-social influences are weak so personality can shine through
(b) culture — conformity & obedience is an universal phenomena,
though they may vary across culture & era
-differences in cultural conformity may reflect an evolutional
response to survival threats
-cultural conformity differences exist within a country & may
change over time
-collectivist cultures are more likely to conform than those from
individualistic cultures
-influenced by our social status — regardless of ethnicity, working-
class (rather than middle-class) people are more likely to conform
(c) social roles — certain aspect of our roles must be performed
-social roles vary with culture (ex. role of a student in Japan vs,
Canada), but the process by which these roles influence behaviour
varies much less — in all cultures, role expectations guide the
conformity found in all social relations
reactance: a motive to protect or restore one’s sense of freedom
-arises when someone threatens our freedom of action
-may contribute to underage drinking
-boomerang effect: doing the opposite of what we think we are being
persuaded to do or what is “restricted”
asserting uniqueness: the preference for being moderately unique (in the
right direction)
-we seek to be not merely different from average, but better than average
-when asked to describe ourselves, we (including children) often say the
things that make us different
-one is most conscious of oneself in the ways that they are different
-when someone closely resembles you, rivalry is most intense
PSYC 231: Chapter 6 - Conformity
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