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Chapter 8

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Western University
Psychology 2720A/B
Clive Seligman

CHAPTER 8: CONFORMITY, COMPLIANCE, AND OBEDIENCE Defining Conformity, Compliance, and Obedience • Three specific kinds of social influence: conformity, compliance, and obedience • Conformity: any change in behaviour caused by another person or group • Compliance: a change in behaviour that is requested y another person or group • Obedience: a change in behaviour that is ordered by another person or group • Conformity encompasses compliance and obedience because it refers to any behaviour that occurs as a result of other’s influence • Obedience commands start in early childhood, when we are socialized to follow the orders of parents and teachers • Why Do We Conform? • Conforming behaviour occur for two principal reasons •Informational Influence: influence from other people that is motivated by a desire to be correct and to obtain accurate information •Reflects that people often rely on others as a source of information •Normative Influence: influence from other people that is motivated by a desire to gain rewards or avoid punishment •They might not necessarily think that others judgements or behaviours are correct • Informational and normative influence can occur simultaneously • We often please other people (normative influence) whose judgements we seek (informational influence) Conformity: Doing as Others Do • Sometimes we go along with others because we do not understand what is happening or we are unsure what to do • But sometimes we go along when we know we shouldn’t • Sherif’s Autokinetic Effect Studies • Social Norm: a rule or guideline in a group or culture about what behaviours are proper and improper • Typically, the reward for following a norm is social acceptance or approval, whereas the punishment for breaking a norm is social rejection or disapproval • Social norms are one source of conformity • The Autokinetic Effect •Autokinetic Effect: in a darkened room, a stationary point of light will appear to move periodically •Occurs partly because no other visual frame of reference is available to locate the light and partly because of occasional rapid movements of your eye • Multigenerational Norms •Transmission of a norm form generation to generation is something that can be modeled in the laboratory • Asch’s Length Judgement Studies • Complying with others statements about length of a line even though you know they are incorrect • The Crutchfield Apparatus •To improve efficiency, flexibility, and control used that Crutchfield Apparatus CHAPTER 8: CONFORMITY, COMPLIANCE, AND OBEDIENCE •Crutchfield Apparatus: a machine that consists of an electrical panel with several rows of lights; it allows the efficient study of conformity by stimulating the responses of numerous hypothetical participants •Crutchfield’s findings were very similar to those of Asch •On virtually all of these tasks, participants showed some conformity to the judgements of others •There was little or no effect of group pressure • Nature of the Task •One feature is the ambiguity of the task: conformity is more likely when tasks are ambiguous •Conformity is also influenced by the difficulty of the task •On the one hand, difficult tasks might increase conformity because people are less certain of their own answer •On the other hand, difficult tasks might reduce conformity because it is okay to differ for others when a task is difficult •On ambiguous or difficult tasks, other peoples responses exert both informational and normative influence, whereas on clear and easy tasks only normative influence occurs • Individual Differences •Not everyone conforms •People who remain independent are somewhat higher in their motivation to achieve and in their leadership ability than people who conform •Also people who remain independent tend to be less concerned about obtaining the approval of others, less authoritarian, and less conscientious •Individuals with high self-esteem are less likely to conform than individuals with low self-esteem especially when high self-esteem is based on intrinsic qualities like honesty or generosity, as opposed to extrinsic things like achievements •Perhaps most clearly, it seems that a strong sense of self is associated with remaining independent •Age differences in conformity have also been explored •Between the ages of 18-85, there is a general tendency for conformity to decrease as age increases • Effects of Group Size •Group size indicate that increases in the group beyond four or five members have relatively little effect on conformity • How to Make Conformity Disappear •Two rather different methods have been found to reduce very substantially the level of conformity •Private, confidential judgements by the critical participant produced a dramatic reduction in conformity •Also when judgements were anonymous rather than face-to-face with the opposing majority •A little social support was all that participants needed to stand up against the majority in this context • Cultural Differences in Conformity • Individualism Versus Collectivism CHAPTER 8: CONFORMITY, COMPLIANCE, AND OBEDIENCE • Confirmed that conformity was indeed higher in collectivist than in individualist countries • Culture predicted participants conformity even more strongly than did other influential factors, such as size of the group • Individual Differences in Independent Vs. Interdependent Self-Concepts • People from individualist cultures tend to have independent self-concepts, whereas those from collectivist cultures tend to have interdependent self- concepts • Predict that people whose self-concepts are independent will conform less than people whose self-concepts are interdependent • Gender Differences in Conformity • Women conform slightly more than do men • Various reasons have been offered for the gender difference • One suggestion is that most conformity researchers have been men, who may have been unconsciously biased toward finding greater independence among men than women • Another suggestion is that the topics in conformity studies have typically been ‘masculine’ with the result that women are were less confident in their judgements than men and, therefore more susceptible to social influence • A third suggestion is that women are more concerned about harmony in social relationships than are men, which makes them less willing to disagree wit others • The gender difference in conformity appears only when participants responses are public • Suggesting that women may be somewhat more susceptible to normative influence than men Compliance: Doing as Others Want • The Foot-in-the-Door Technique • Foot-in-the-door Technique: a strategy to increase compliance, based on the fact that agreement with a small request increases the likelihood of agreement with a subsequent larger request • A small request increases the likelihood of subsequent agreement for two related processes: self-perception and consistency • Self-Perception Processes • People sometimes infer their internal states from their behaviour and the situation in which the behaviour occurred • The initial request stimulated a self-perception of helpfulness, which subsequently increased compliance with the second request • Consistency Processes • Dissonance theory, and impression management theory could contribute to the foot-in-the-door technique • Individual Differences in Preferences for Consistency (PFC) • People who score high in PFC may be more susceptible to the technique than people who score low in PFC • The Door-in-the-Face Technique CHAPTER 8: CONFORMITY, COMPLIANCE, AND OBEDIENCE • Door-in-the-Face Technique: a strategy to increase compliance, based on the fact that refusal of a large request increases the likelihood of agreement with a subsequent smaller request • It cannot work via self-perception or consistency processes because these processes would operate to make people who decline the first request less likely to agree to the second request as well • Norm of Reciprocity: the principle that we should give back in retur
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