Module 44 Page 1
Conformity: Complying with Social Pressures
o Helps us to empathize, which explains why we feel happier around happy people
o Chameleon Effect: students worked alongside each other and sure enough students
copied the confederates working for the experimenters with rubbing their face etc.
o Empathic mimicking fosters fondness
Conformity and Social Norms
Conformity – adjusting our behaviour or thinking to coincide with a group standard
We are likely to conform when we are:
Are made to feel incompetent or insecure
Are in a group with at least three people
Are in a group which everyone agrees
Admire the groups status and attractiveness
Have not made a prior commitment to any response
Know that others in the group will observe our behaviour
Are from a culture that strongly encourages respect for social standards
Normative Social Influence – influence resulting from a person’s desire to gain approval or
avoid disapproval. We are sensitive to social norms, because the price we pay for being
different can be severe, we need to belong.
Informational Social Influence – influence resulting from one’s willingness to accept others’
opinions about reality. “Those who never retract their opinions love themselves more than they
love the truth.” We conform because we want to be accurate.
Western Europeans and most English speaking countries prize individualism. Asian,
African and Latin American countries place higher value on honouring group standards.
Obedience: Following Orders
Social Psychologists Stanley Milgram (controversial & influential 20 experiments)
A learner and teacher draw slips, to see who will administer the shocks for each wrong answer.
The learner grunts & yells "get me out of here" in pain, while the teacher is advised to please
continue with the shocks by the experimenter Module 44 Page 2
Shocking results showed even when the learner had heart conditions, 65% of participants
continued up until the final 450 volt shock, when the learner even fell silent. The psychologist
predicted less than 1%.
The teachers displayed genuine distress; the perspired. trembled. laughed nervously & bit their
Obedience was higher when:
The person giving orders was close by and was perceived to be a real authority figure
The authority figure was supported by a prestigious institution
The victim was depersonalized or in another room
There were no models for defiance (they saw no other participant disobey the experimenter)
Lessons From the Conformity and Obedience Studies
These experiments aimed not to re-create the literal behaviours of everyday life but to capture and
explore the underlying processes that shape those behaviours. A dilemma we all face frequently; Do I