Psychology 2070A/B Chapter Notes - Chapter 8-13: Terror Management Theory, Mass Suicide, Stationary Point

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Chapter 8 – Conformity, Compliance, and Obedience
LECTURE
- Obedience often rests on perceptions of the authority of the individual giving the order, and authority is
associated with certain features:
oExpertise or knowledge (ie. A physician)
oLegitimate authority (ie. Boss)
oCues that imply authority (ie. Uniforms, age, gender)
oStudy: Man pointed at another in a parking lot claiming he had no change. Sometimes the man
being pointed at was in normal clothes, other times he was in uniform. Almost double the amount
of people gave money to the man in uniform
- Conformity encompasses both compliance and obedience, it is a change in behaviour from a request or
order or other types of influences (ie. Imitate another person, learn something from another person,
follow a social norm in a setting). It has a negative connotation, but actually has many benefits:
oSocial order (ie. Lining up quietly for a cashier)
oLaws (ie. Traffic laws)
oLearning (ie. How to shoot a basketball)
oAuthorities in society must be respected (ie. Police)
oOrganizational success (ie. Military, hospitals, businesses)
- There can also be costs of conformity:
oPeople conform to undesirable behaviours (ie. Smoking, drugs, bullying)
oPeople may reject others who are different or don’t conform (ie. Cliques, peer pressure)
oPeople may obey immoral orders (ie. Nazi Germany, cult suicides)
- Why do people conform to others’ influence?
oInformational influence (The influence results from seeking accurate information and believing
the other is reliable, ie. A new member of a group follows the behaviour of more experienced)
oNormative influence (Influence from other people that reflects the desire to gain rewards or
avoid punishment – the person may not think the behaviour is correct, but they think they will
either get rewarded or prevent punishment, ie. Obeying the speed limit)
oInfo and Norm influence often happen at the same time
Dentist explains it’s important to try and floss each day (Info: You believe flossing is
important, Norm: You don’t want to disappoint your dentist)
A friend tells you that her boyfriend is a great guy (Info: You believe he’s great, Norm:
You don’t want to disagree)
oStudy: (Asch) Line judgement task, people conformed to a wrong answer and knew they were
doing it which elicited Normative influence (Impact = showed conformity when answer was
clearly false, group not significant to person – could be a stranger, was a laboratory procedure for
conformity)
oStudy: (Milgram) Obedience to shocking, which declined as victim’s feedback was more
immediate or as a distance was created between the two (“gradual commitment” or escalating
commitment – made stopping at any particular point difficult)
Waiting for bus for 30 minutes, leave?
Invest money in losing stock, sell?
The pressure to continue comes from the need to justify investments and decision to self
and others, and abandoning the course of action implies that prior investments were
wasted or wrong
- What happens if norms and models conflict? Is one kind of influence more powerful? Do people follow
social rules or individual actions in a setting?
oStudy: (Cialdini) Manipulated social norm in a setting (parking garage) and the actions of a
model, sometimes they were consistent or inconsistent. Placed a flyer on every cars windshield
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so they had to remove before driving. Social norm = litter or no litter, model = reading pamphlet
or throwing it on the ground. Results = both norm and model have an effect, but norm was
stronger, and model only had an effect when actions were consistent with the norm
oStudy: (Phillips) Copycat Suicides. Within two months of front-page suicide stories, an average
58 “extra” people committed suicide
- Another psychological process that can cause conformity is awareness of our own mortality, or Terror
Management Theory (TMT). Humans share drive for self-preservation with other animals, but humans
are the only species to understand that they are mortal. This realization is potentially terrifying. To
reduce this terror humans need to see themselves as immortal in some way:
oEmbrace a cultural worldview (beliefs and values of culture and family) = literal immortality
(afterlife) and symbolic immortality (children, values, and social institutions)
oStudy: (Greenberg) The cultural worldview reduces death anxiety, so making mortality salient
should cause attraction to in-group members and rejection of out-group members, right?
Christian students were questioned, when asked about liking of another Christian and a Jewish
person, those in the morality-salient group showed favourability to in-group. Why?
Unconsciously made participants feel that their in-group culture was immortal
- Compliance techniques, used by salespersons and telemarketers, are strategies designed to get people to
agree to a given request
oFoot-in-the-door technique (FITD): Ask for a small favour, target agrees to a small request, target
is then more likely to agree with a large request as well. Why does it work? Person sees
themselves as helpful, and feels committed to the issue and wants to appear consistent – self-
perception and dissonance
oDoor-in-the-face technique (DITF): Ask for a large favour, target refuses, target is then more
likely to agree to a smaller request. Why does it work? Reciprocity, guilt, and contrast
oFree gift technique: Give target a small gift to keep, also (or later) asks for a favour, target is
more likely to agree. Why does it work? Reciprocity and liking, feels indebted
oLow-ball technique: Offer something at a low price, target agrees, then increase price, target is
more likely to purchase it still. Why does it work? Rationalization (evaluate the product more
positively after deciding to purchase it; postdecisional dissonance) and person feels committed
and wants to appear consistent with initial decision
TEXTBOOK
- Focus on three specific kinds of social influence:
oConformity (encompasses both compliance and obedience)
oCompliance
oObedience
- Two major studies on conformity:
oStudy: (Sherif) In the first study 19 men sat in a dark room and stared at a light on the wall 16
feet away. They were asked to report 100 times how much the light moved. But, as explained in
the autokinetic effect (in a darkened room, a stationary point of light will appear to move
periodically), the light wasn’t actually moving. Each man came to an average decision, but from
man to man the distances ranged significantly. In the second study men were put in the room
with others and announced their assumptions out loud, at which point assumptions began to
converge and everyone had similar thoughts (group norm). Moreover, some groups did it
together first and then alone after, at which point the group norms transferred over into the
individual trials. Lastly, to test multigenerational norms, Sherif had groups of four men undergo
the same routine of guessing the distances, but the group was composed of three confederates
and one participant. The confederates determined the group norm and influenced the participant.
Then one confederate was taken out and replaced with a naïve person – the group norm
continued (second generation). This happened until the entire group was naïve participants and
not confederates, and the group norm continued over each generation
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oStudy: (Asch) Participant it placed in a group with seven confederates and when given an
arbitrary line and three to compare it to (in length) they are to announce out loud which is the
same length. The naïve participant will always go last. Sometimes all of the confederates before
say the right answer, and so does the participant. But then when the confederates say the wrong
answer, even knowing the clearly right one, the participant conforms and says the wrong one too
(conformity pressure). Only 23% of participants said the right answers regardless of what others
said before them
oStudy: (Crutchfield) Similar study to Asch, but to eliminate the variability of actors Crutchfield
created the Crutchfield apparatus, where each participant is sitting in a cubicle and responds to
the projected questions by flicking a switch on the panel in their cubicle. They are told that they
will be able to see the other participant’s responses (really controlled by the experimenter) on the
panel as well, and that theirs will be public too. The study resulted in similar rates of conformity,
but it depended on the ambiguity of the task (more ambiguous, more conformity) and the
difficulty (harder question, more conformity). Why? On complex or ambiguous tasks other
people’s responses exert both normative and informative influence, whereas on simple tasks
(Asch’s) they only exert normative
oThose who don't comply (that 23%) tend to be hire in motivation to achieve and are less
concerned about obtaining others’ approval (high self-esteem)
oThe larger the group, the more conformity. Most experiments say this caps around 5 people, but
did not study mobs or crowds, in which size tends to increase conformity
oTo reduce conformity Asch recreated his study but had the participant write down answers
instead of saying them out loud like the confederates. He also had another version in which a
confederate said the right answers too, providing the participant with a “partner” – this virtually
eliminated conformity. Another study also proved that anonymity helps decrease conformity
- People from individualistic cultures (North America) will conform less than collectivist cultures (Asia
and South America)
- Women conform slightly more than men (but not when responses are private), meaning that women are
more susceptible to normative influences then men
- Why does the foot-in-the-door technique of compliance work?
oSelf-perception (want to be seen as a good, helpful, complacent person)
oConsistency (want behaviour to seem consistent with others – dissonance)
People who score high on the Preferences for Consistency test would be more susceptible
to this technique
- Other compliance techniques
oScarcity (art work becomes more valuable if it is the only one by artist, toys for children become
more necessary if only a few left, and cookies are rated better if given 2 vs. 10)
oLiking (will comply with people will like more often than people we don’t – we want to please
and make happy people that we know, and there is a heuristic that goes with it, a simple shortcut)
Study: Brief conversation with confederate increased compliance
Study: Students more likely to comply with those with same name or birthday
oALL REVIEWED ON p. 326
- Most famous experiment on obedience is the Milgram experiment (review later – p. 328)
- Choice helps make obedience go away, as in which authoritative figure to choose to listen to
- There are three general processes / motivations that apply to obedience, compliance, and conformity:
oInformational and Normative Influence (Accuracy and Social Motivation)
Accuracy: Motivated to have a correct understanding (source of informational influence)
Social: Desire to establish and maintain social relationship (source of normative infl.)
oTerror Management Theory (see lecture)
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