Psychology 2720A/B Chapter Notes - Chapter 8: Norm (Social), Stationary Point, Social Rejection

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Published on 18 Nov 2011
Western University
Psychology 2720A/B
Psych 2720A
Chapter 8: Conformity, Compliance, and Obedience
Defining Conformity, Compliance, and Obedience
3 specific kinds of social influence: conformity, compliance, and obedience
these are all changes in behaviour caused by other people
conformity: any change in behaviour caused by another person or group
going along with others may be the best way to do the right thing or to avoid
appearing foolish, especially when the situation is ambiguous and you are
uncertain about your own judgement and experience
compliance: a change in behaviour that is requested by another person or group
obedience: a change in behaviour that is ordered by another person or group
obedience commands start in early childhood, when we are socialized to follow the
orders of parents and teachers
conformity encompasses compliance and obedience because is refers to ANY
behaviour that occurs as a result of othersʼ influence
compliance and obedience refer to behaviour that resulted specifically from
requests or orders
Why Do We Conform?
conforming behaviours occur for two principal reasons, which are informational
influence and normative influence
informational influence: influence from other people that is motivated by a desire to
be correct and to obtain accurate information
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 to avoid punishment
the two influences can occur simultaneously
Conformity: Doing as Others Do
behavioural conformity can occur without the conscious awareness of an individual
two famous early studies in social psychology look at different kinds of conformity:
Muzafer Sherifʼs work on the autokinetic effect
Solomon Aschʼs work on judgements of line lengths
Sherifʼs Autokinetic Effect Studies
social norm: a rule or guideline in a group or culture about what behaviours are
proper and improper
reward for following a norm is social acceptance or approval, whereas the punishment
for breaking a norm is social rejection or disapproval
social norms govern the way we dress, the way we speak, and the way we behave
ie. a formal norm in Canada is to drive on the right side of the road
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 and jump in different directions when it is not (an illusion)
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this illusion 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
in his first study, Sherif asked 19 men to report how far the light appeared to move
INDIVIDUALLY - the results showed a wide range of distances that the men
in his second study, Sherif assembled the people in groups of two or three - then,
they were asked to report out loud the distances they perceived
judgements of perceived movement come to converge (results of people
became more and more similar)
by the end of the study, the judgements of the two or three people in the same
group became similar (with more repeated trials of the study)
some participants made their initial judgements with someone else rather than
being alone - found that the groups converged very rapidly on their own group
norms (made their judgements in group situations from the beginning)
when they were then broken up to be interviewed individually in the end of the
study, the group norms still persisted
look at p.290 for results.
Multigenerational Norms
ie. the norm that servers in restaurants should be given tips has been common in
our society for many years
MacNeil and Sherif did a lab study on this with 4 male high school students (3 of
them were planted by the experimenter and one naive participant)
the 3 boys established a norm which influenced the naive particpant, and then,
one of the 3 boys were replaced, leaving 2 naive participants and 2 originally
planted by the experimenter
this procedure was repeated until the whole group was replaced with naive
in the 5th generation, the original naive participant was replaced with another
naive participant - continued for 11 generations
after 11 generations, responses began to drift from the original norms
established by the original 4 highschool boys
Aschʼs Length Judgement Studies
on each trial, each participant is shown a line and a set of 3 lines - the task is to simply
indicate which of the three comparison lines matches the standard line in length
as the experiment begins, you learn that each member of the group is to announce
his or her judgment out loud so the entire group can hear.
in Aschʼs study, 7 members were confederates of the experimenter, instructed to
give the wrong answer on designated trials - only one individual was unaware of
the experimental condition
only 23% of the critical participants always gave the correct answer
the remaining 77% of the critical participants went along with the group on at least
one of the 12 trials
The Crutchfield Apparatus
in Aschʼs procedure, confederates needed to be carefully trained, and, like any
theatre production, their acting potentially different from session to session
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there was the possibility that the confederates would act differently depending on
how the critical participant responded
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
when participants arrive for the experiment, they are seated in separate
cubicles. Each cubicle contains an electrical panel with 5 rows of 11 lights and
one row of 11 switches.
experimenter explains each individual controls one row of lights
as each person indicates her response (by throwing one of the 11 switches), a
corresponding light will be illuminated on the panel in all cubicles - each
participant believes that he or she will learn about the responses of others and
that his or her own responses will be publicly known
in reality, experimenter controls all of the lights
Crutchfieldʼs findings were similar to Aschʼs in that he used a variety of other
tasks such as perceptual judgements, attitudes, opinions, etc
EXCEPTION: in the case of expressing personal preferences, there was little or
no effect of group pressure
Nature of the Task
the amount of conformity found in Asch-type experiments, or using the Crutchfield
apparatus, depends on features of the judgement task
conformity is more likely when tasks are ambiguous
conformity is also influenced by the difficulty of the task - difficult tasks may
increase conformity as uncertainty is increased
on the other hand, difficulty may reduce conformity because it is okay to
differ from others when a task is difficult
on ambiguous or difficult tasks, other peopleʼs responses exert both informational
and normative influences, whereas on clear and easy tasks, only normative
influence occurs.
on difficult tasks, individual not only feels some normative pressure to go along
with othersʼ judgements, but the individual also uses the othersʼ judgements as
a source of information about the correct answer (which is not true on clear and
easy tasks) - additional impact of informational influence increases the overall
rate of conformity on ambiguous/difficult tasks
Individual Differences
people who remain independent are somewhat higher in their motivation to
achieve and in their leadership ability than people who conform
these individuals tend to be more confident about their judgments
people who remained 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-esteem is based on intrinsic qualities like
honesty or generosity, as opposed to extrinsic things like achievements
age also plays a role in conformity - conformity to same age peers increases
during elementary school, peaks around grade 9, and then declines up to the
university years
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