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Psychology 2720A/B Chapter Notes -Terror Management Theory, Attachment Theory, Prodrug

Course Code
Clive Seligman

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CHP8: Conformity, Compliance and Obedience
- Conformity: any change in behaviour caused by another person or group
oMost general: encompasses compliance and obedience
oPerson may have copied or wanted to impress someone
oOnly applies to changes in behaviour not personal attitudes/beliefs
oMakes sense in a new situation when you’re trying to decide what to
do – may help you avoid looking bad
oPeople often go along with incorrect responses of others, even when it
is clear they are wrong
- Compliance: a change in behaviour that is requested by another group or
oIt was possible to refuse/decline
oWe experience requests everywhere – some people are compliance
professionals (i.e. Salesperson, panhandler)
- Obedience: A change in behaviour that is ordered by another person or group
oStarts early in childhood when we are socialized to follow orders by
parents and teachers
oAdults are relative obedient – follow rules from police, government,
boss etc.
oPeople are very susceptible to this kind of influence even if it means
causing harm to themselves or others
Why Do We Conform?
Two principal reasons:
- Informational influence: influence from other people that is motivated by a
desire to be correct and to obtain accurate information
oReflects that people rely on others for info – trust others judgments
- Normative influence: influence from other people that is motivated by a desire
to gain rewards or to avoid punishment
oMay simply want to be liked or avoid conflict even though they don’t
think others behaviour is “correct”
oE.g. people avoid laws because they don’t want to be punished
oE.g. conforming to appearance/attitudes of popular peers so one will
be liked
- We often want to please other people (Normative influence) whose judgments
we seek (Informational influence)
- Can occur w/o even realizing
- We go along with others because we don’t understand what is happening/ we
are unsure of what to do
- Examples: Sherif – judgments were ambiguous, Asch – judgments were
Sherif’s Autokinetic Effect Studies

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- Sheriff studied conformity addressing the development of social norms
- Social norms: rules or guidelines in a group or culture about what behaviours
are appropriate or not
oFormal: laws and contracts
oInformal: customs and traditions
oReward for following norm is social acceptance, punishment is social
rejection or disapproval
oOne source of conformity (they represent influence from other people
and guide behaviour)
The Autokinetic Effect.
- In a dark room, a pin hole of light will appear to move but this is really just an
- The autokinetic effect: in a darkened room, a stationary point of light will
appear to move periodically
oHappens because there are no other visual frames of reference to
locate the light an partly because of rapid eye movements
- In his first study: a relatively wide range of perceived movement occurred
from person to person
- Second study: half the participants were alone first and then came together
with others – caused numbers to converge
- Other half: together, then alone – caused members to maintain the norm
- 3rd study w/ confederate: when the confederate was no longer present,
participants responses remained very close to the standard set in the first 50
trial thus the confederate influenced participants judgments
Multigenerational Norms.
- Group norms are spontaneously established and carry over into individual
- We do not typically know where norms are started and how theyve been
passed along
- Can be modeled in a lab: have a group with confederates and naïve
participants, set some standard for something and keep switching out
confederates until only naïve participants are left
- Study continued for 11 generations until respondents began to drift, indicating
norms can persist long after the original instigators are gone
Asch’s Length Judgment Studies
- Making judgments of lines – there is a clearly correct answer
- 23% of critical participants (28/123) always gave the correct answer and went
against the group on all 12 false trials
- 45% gave between 1-6 wrong answers and 32% gave 7-12 wrong answers
The Crutchfield Apparatus.
- Crutchfield Apparatus: a machine that consists of an electrical panel with
several rows of lights; it allows the efficient study of conformity by simulating
the responses of numerous hypothetical participants
oParticipants believe they are seeing other peoples responses while in
their cubicle but really it’s the researcher flipping switches

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oThey have full control of what pattern of responses to use and all
participants are “critical participants”
oReplicated Asch’s findings – participants showed conformity on
perceptual judgements, attitudes, opinions, personal preferences and
assessments of factual material
oOnly exception was in the case of personal preference, there was little/
no effect of group pressure
Nature Of The Task.
- Amount of conformity depends on features of task
oAmbiguous tasks are more likely to cause conformity
oDifficult tasks – because people are less certain of their answers may
cause conformity… may also reduce conformity because it’s more
acceptable to differ from someone when the task is difficult
oMore conformity is found when judgments are based on memory
oAdditional impact of informational influence increases the overall rate
of conformity on ambiguous and difficult tasks
Individual Differences.
- People who remain independent are somewhat higher in their motivation to
achieve and in their leadership ability. Also tend to be less concerned with
obtaining approval from others, less authoritarian, less conscientious
- High self esteem people are less likely to conform, especially when self
esteem is based on intrinsic qualities like honesty or generosity
- These people are more confident about their own judgments
- But, individual differences correlate weakly with conformity
- There is a general tendency for conformity to decrease as age increase –
typically grade 9 is when people are most concerned about fitting in – as
people grow they feel less pressure to agree with others
Effects of Group Size.
- Studies indicate conformity rose rapidly when groups went from 1 – 5 but
additional increases were not significant
- But, it is also likely that very large groups (thousands) exert more pressure to
conform then small groups
How To Make Conformity Disappear.
- Shift to private, confidential responses for Asch’s “critical participants”
produced a dramatic reduction in conformity
- Also a reduction when judgments were anonymous rather than face to face
- Presence of just one “partner” – someone else who gives same response as
critical participant virtually eliminated conformity – little social support is all
that is needed to stand up to the majority
Cultural Differences in Conformity
Individualism V. Collectivism.
- Conformity is higher in collectivist cultures
- Culture predicted conformity more strongly than other factors such as size of
Individual Diffs. In Independent V. Interdependent Self-Concepts.
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