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Chapter 7

Sociology 2233 Chapter 7 Notes

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Sociology 2233
Richard Sorrentino

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Chapter 7 – Conformity: Influencing Others Types of Conformity: 1. Informational Social Influence – How we go about getting our social information/how we are influenced a. Because others serve as a useful source of information 2. Normative Social Influence – The actions and consequences of conforming/not conforming a. Pressures to follow social norms Conformity: Achange in behaviour as a result of the real or imagined influence of other people Informational Social Influence: Conforming because we believe that others interpretation of an ambiguous situation is more correct than ours and will help us choose an appropriate course of action • Ex: Asking a friend how they would address a professor in an e-mail, or how to respond to a text message • Being around a group of people while making a decision alters the way you choose to make your own decisions PrivateAcceptance: Conforming to other people’s behaviour out of a genuine belief that what they are doing or saying is right Public Compliance: Conforming to other people’s behaviour publicly, without necessarily believing in what they are doing or saying • Ex: Autokinetic Experiment (light shined in the dark that appears – People might not have believed that the light moved very far but conformed to the consensus of the group o Even after they had been asked to complete the experiment alone (after being with the group, they chose an answer similar to that of the group) • When a task is deemed to be important, people are more likely to conform to the group than when the task is thought to be unimportant • Informational social influence is pervasive in our day-to-day lives When People Conform to Informational Social Influence: • When the situation is ambiguous – the more uncertain you are about a situation, the more you will look to the group to find answers o Ex: In a fire alarm, if nobody flinches, you will likely not do anything as well – whereas, if everyone were to run to the fire escape, you would too • When the situation is a crisis – we usually do not have time to stop and think about which course of action we should take, so we look at what others are doing o Can be an issue because everyone is scared and panicky, therefore people will make irrational decisions o Contagion: The rapid transmission of emotions or behaviour through a crowd – ex: end of the world messages • When other people are experts – the more expertise or knowledge a person has, the more valuable he or she will be as a guide in an ambiguous or crisis situation. o Ex: Looking to a flight attendant when there is smoke coming out of the airplane wing o Students change their views (liberal vs. conservative) based on their major – this is an example of informational social influence at the hands of an expert (professor) When Informational Conformity Backfires: Mass Psychogenic Illness: The occurrence of similar physical symptoms in a group of people for which there is no known physical or medical cause • Symptoms brought on by anxiety over a possible chemical attack – Vancouver Mystery Bus incident where there was in fact, no chemical attack Resisting Informational Social Influence: • Engaging in rational problem solving • Once we have formed an opinion of a situation, we may interpret the same situation differently a mere 10 minutes later – to go with or against the groups opinion. Normative Social Influence – The need to be accepted There is another reason why we conform, aside from the need for information Normative Social Influence: The influence of other people that leads us to conform in order to be liked and accepted by them – this type of conformity results in public compliance with the group’s beliefs and behaviours but not necessarily in private acceptance • Through interactions with others, we receive emotional support, affection, and love, and we partake in enjoyable experiences – this is why we like to conform to the people around us Social Norms: the implicit or explicit rules a group has for the acceptable behaviours, values, and beliefs of its members • Members who do not, are perceived as different, difficult and eventually deviant. Asch Line Judgment Studies • Initiated the study because he believes that there are limits to how much people will conform o He believed that when the situation was completely unambiguous, people would act like rational, objective problem solvers. • Participants judged which of the three comparison lines on the right was closet in length to the standard line on the left • However, members of the group said the wrong answer our loud, now the participant is in a dilemma • Most people conformed (76% on one trial), and conformed on about 1/3 of the 12 trials o Asch found that once the group reached 4 members, adding more members did not change the rate of conformity, it just remained the same at 4 members • People conformed because they didn’t want to ‘make a fool’of themselves by going against the group – even though the answers were completely obvious and it was a group of strangers o In contrast to informational social influence, normative pressures usually result in public compliance without private acceptance o fMRI brain imaging research supports the idea that normative social influence occurs because people negative emotions such as discomfort and tension, when they stand up for beliefs and go against the group. Social Impact Theory: The theory that conforming to social influence depends on the strength of the group, its immediacy, and the number of other people in the group Depends on 3 variables: 1. Strength: How important is the group to you? 2. Immediacy: How close is the group to you in space and time during the influence attempt? 3. Number: How many people are in the group? (Asch study suggested that 4 people would make an individual conform to even an unambiguous situation) • Conformity will increase as strength and immediacy increases – whereas as the number of people in a group increases, each additional member of the group has less of an influencing effect. • When the group is small, adding an additional member will have a huge effect Conditions under which people will conform to normative social pressures: • When the group size is 3 or more – does not take an extremely large group to create normative social influence • When the group is important – Groups to which we are highly attracted and with which we strongly identify will exert more normative influence – we love and cherish these people and do not want to lost their love and respect. o When we are attracted to a group and are reminded that we don’t quite fit in, we are especially motivated to conform. • When the group is unanimous – it is almost impossible to resist influence when everyone believes the same thing – unless you have an ally, someone whose nonconformist behaviour will help you buck the tide as well. o Observing another person resist normative social influence emboldens the individual to do the same.
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