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Conformity & Obedience Unit 3 > Social Psychology
What‚Äôs the difference between conformity and obedience? When do you conform? Why do you conform? When do you obey? Why do you obey?
Nature of conformity:
normative and informational social influence
compliance and internalisation
studies of conformity
individual and situational factors in conformity
Nature of obedience:
factors in obedience behaviour
Strategies for resisting social pressure/coercion.
What is conformity?
Zimbardo & Lieppe (1991) define conformity as:
‚Äė‚Ä¶ a change in belief or behaviour in response to real or imagined group pressure when there is no direct request to comply with the group nor any reason to justify the behaviour change.‚Äô
What do you think of this definition?
Why do people conform?
Deutsch & Gerard (1955) attempted to account for conformity.
They argued that to explain group influence it was necessary to distinguish between informational social influence and normative social influence.
Informational social influence INTERNALISATION Private & Public Acceptance Need for certainty Subjective uncertainty Need for information to reduce uncertainty Comparison with others Informational Influence
Normative social influence COMPLIANCE Need for acceptance/approval of others Power of others to reward/punish Conflict between own and others‚Äô opinions Private Disagreement Normative Influence Public Acceptance
Outline the differences between informational and normative influences. (6)
Sherif (1935) used a visual illusion called the autokinetic effect to study conformity.
The autokinetic effect is a perceptual illusion in which a stationary point of light seen in darkness appears to move about.
He asked participants to estimate how far the light had moved privately and as members of a group.
People who were tested individually produced answers that were quite different from each other.
However people who were tested together gave answers that were much more similar ‚Äď in fact they eventually converged so much that a group norm was established.
Moreover, participants would stick to this group norm even when they were on their own again.
Evaluating Sherif‚Äôs experiment.
The autokinetic effect is an illusion that has no ‚Äėright‚Äô answer. Participants claimed that they struggled to arrive at the ‚Äėcorrect‚Äô answer on their own.
In what sense can Sherif‚Äôs participants be described as a group?
Can we speak of group norms without any direct interaction taking place or participants seeing themselves as engaged in some kind of joint activity?
Asch (1951) found that participants would even give answers which they knew to be untrue, rather than ones which deviated from the views being expressed by others.
The task in Asch‚Äôs studies involved judging which line from a set of three was the same length as a stimulus line; and it was clearly apparent what each correct answer was.
Which of the comparison lines matches the test line?
Asch first carried out a pilot study and found that participants made only 3 mistakes in 720 trials - an error rate of 0.42%.
‚Äė Na√Įve‚Äô participants were sat with 6-8 ‚Äėstooges‚Äô and each member was asked to complete the task verbally 18 times in total.
Na√Įve participants always gave their answer last or second to last.
On 12 occasions the stooges gave the same incorrect answer.
This was repeated with 50 na√Įve participants.
Asch found a mean conformity of 32%.
Key Study: Asch (1951) page 255
Sing song Asch followed Sherif, in the study of conformity, Both lines of research, in the field, had great enormity, Asch used the lengths of lines which, With lone subjects, were easy to discern, But shills still got subjects to accede, As Asch was soon to learn, ...Asch was soon to learn, Asch followed Sherif, in the study of conformity, Both lines of research, in the field, had great enormity Asch Followed Sherif Lyrics by Alan Reifman (May be sung to the tune of ‚ÄúI Shot the Sheriff,‚ÄĚ Bob Marley) Asch followed Sherif, in the study of conformity, Both lines of research, in the field, had great enormity, Sherif‚Äôs light spots were hazy, And the majority held sway, Citing this ambiguity, Asch said he‚Äôd go another way, ...said he‚Äôd go another way,
Smith & Bond (1996) collated data from different conformity studies across the world.
Can you identify a trend in the data? Can you identify a trend in the data? Summarise the trend using the terms individualist and collectivist . 1.42 5 Japan 0.90 79 Other US 1.84 3 Africa samples 0.92 1 Germany 0.74 1 Holland 1.31 2 Arab samples 0.56 2 France 1.93 1 Hong Kong 0.91 4 Belgium 2.48 2 Fiji 0.81 10 UK 1.60 3 Brazil 1.37 1 Canada 0.58 1 Portugal 1.16 18 Asch‚Äôs US Conformity Rate Studies Nation Conformity Rate Studies Nation
Factors affecting conformity
What factors do you think would effect conformity?
Work using the Asch paradigm has found the following factors:
Group size: One stooge has a low conformity (3%), with two stooges conformity rises to 14% and with three stooges it reaches Asch‚Äôs 32%.
Unanimity: Conformity is most likely to occur when stooges are unanimous in their answers.
Task difficulty, ambiguity and familiarity with task.
Gender and other individual demands: When conformity/independence is made public, men are less likely to conform.
If a group is highly cohesive, its individual members are tightly linked and support each other.
Therefore, an individual within a group is susceptible to the influence of the group and will be attracted to the idea of remaining a member of it.
Type of social norm
This refers to the nature of the expected belief, attitude, or behaviour.
Hornsey et al (2004) studied the the influence of group norms on social issues with a moral component.
Key Study: Hornsey et al (2004) page 256/7.
Minority Social Influence
What is minority social influence?
What did Moscovici (1969) conclude from his work on minority influence?
Outline his study.
What addition did Mugny & Papastamou (1980) make?
How do majority and minority influence differ in terms of informational/normative?
What did Clark (1990) contribute?
Watch the film of Milgram‚Äôs study on obedience:
What did you think of the video?
What does Milgram‚Äôs work suggest?
Can you evaluate this study?
How does obedience relate to compliance?
There are important differences between conformity and obedience:
In conformity there is no explicit requirement to act in a certain way, whereas in obedience we are ordered/instructed to do something.
Those who influence us when we conform are our peers. In obedience there is a difference in status - obedience involves direction from a higher authority.
Extreme examples of obedience
Outline the following two examples of obedience:
SS Officer Eichmann
Lieutenant William Calley
How have we previously tried to explain the actions of the Holocaust?
Summarise Adorno et al‚Äôs (1950) authoritarian personality theory.
In what way is the approach of Social Psychology different?
Outline Miale & Selzer‚Äôs (1975) and Aronson et al‚Äôs (1997) theories.
Stanley Milgram was a Professor of Psychology at the prestigious Yale University in Connecticut.
He was interested in the question of why so many ordinary German people in the 1930s and 1940s had followed instructions (eg when working in concentration camps) which involved causing pain or even killing other innocent human beings.
Was it because Germans had a character flaw that made them especially likely to obey ‚Äėauthority‚Äô without question?
Key Study : Milgram (1963) Page 260.
Other Studies Reference: Smith, P. B., & Bond, M. H. (1994). Social psychology across cultures: Analysis and perspectives. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon. Taken from: http://chiron.valdosta.edu/mawhatley/9710/milgram.htm
What did Meeus & Raaijmakers (1986) find out?
Hofling et al (1966): An experimental study in the nurse-physician relationship
Real life study of obedience.
A staff nurse on night duty would be telephoned by somebody claiming to be a doctor responsible for a particular patient.
The nurse was asked to administer a dose of a drug which was twice the maximum allowed.
The label stated very clearly that this was dangerous.
Ninety-five per cent of the nurses measured out the medication and were about to administer it to the patient when a hidden observer stopped them.
Why did the nurses do this?
Zimbardo et al (1973): Stanford Prison experiment
Zimbardo decided to investigate what was going on in prisons in the USA.
There were reports of brutality, bullying and killings by the prison guards.
With these allegations, he wanted to find out whether it was the situation which caused such behaviours, or whether it was the guards‚Äô personalities.
Watch the DVD and:
make notes on Zimbardo‚Äôs study.
what does his study suggest?
what criticisms can you make of this study?
How can this be explained?
Shows how easy it is to change the way we act when placed in a new situation and role.
The norms showed what actions were appropriate for the roles (normative social influence).
It is probably true to say that the subjects obeyed rather than conformed.
Were the subjects trying to do what they thought the researcher wanted and so played their parts to the full? (demand characteristics)
In real-life situations people tend to find a role which suits their own beliefs.
There have been many criticisms of the study:
The subjects were caused emotional distress. Could it not have been possible to foresee this? Although subjects signed an agreement to be volunteers, they did not realise that they would be arrested at home.
Perhaps the study became too realistic for those involved and should not have taken place?
Zimbardo tried to answer his critics by claiming that the real issue was that people did not want to admit that they may have behaved in exactly the same way.
While subjects knew that this was an experiment the fact that there was such a change in their behaviour showed the importance of a situation.
It showed that the personality of the individuals did not really influence actions in this obedience set-up.
Why do People Obey?
Autonomous and Agentic Levels of Behaviour
Milgram (1973) proposed that people operate on two levels:
As autonomous individuals where they act according to their own values and beliefs.
On an agentic level where individuals see themselves as acting as agents on behalf of somebody else and therefore not responsible for their own actions.
It is possible for an individual to move from an autonomous state into an agentic state (agentic shift).
One important consequence of this shift is that the individual no longer feels responsible for their actions, instead they can blame those in higher authority.
Why do People Obey?
Authority figures generally have high status with their roles being defined by society and therefore have legitimate social power.
Types of Power :
Coercive Power ‚Äď The ability to administer punishment (eg teacher)
Reward Power ‚Äď The ability to administer reward (eg parent)
Expert Power ‚Äď Superior knowledge (eg teacher)
Referent Power ‚Äď Someone you look up to (eg parent/celebrity)
Legitimate Power ‚Äď Official post held (eg Principal because of their position)
This is particularly evident when the authority figure is in uniform. (Ref: Bickman, 1974)
Why do People Obey?
It has been suggested that women comply/conform/ obey more readily than men. (Ref: Crutchfield, 1955).
It is also possible that the reason for females being apparently more susceptible to social pressure is that, generally, females tend to hold lower status than males.
However, recent studies (Eagly and Carli, 1981) suggest that there are no significant differences between males and females.
Why would you expect a disagreement between early and more recent studies?
Why do People Obey?
In society there are many rules and regulations that exist to reinforce obedience.
These are instilled in us from a very early age.
For example, strong parental authority can result in an individual internalising the need for obedience (being in an agentic state), and never questioning what they are told to do either at home or in school and even later in life, at the workplace.
Binding factors also help to keep an individual in an agentic state, for example:
fear of disrupting a social situation
fear of questioning an authority figure.
Strategies for Resisting Social Pressure/Coercion
Why should we resist social pressure?
Make notes on conscientious objectors.
What are the dangers of conformity?
What did Gamson et al do?
What did they find out?
Gamson et al, (1982) found that a very high percentage (97%) of groups will show dissent and around 50% of groups will completely rebel to unfair requests from authority figures if they are given time to express and discuss their dissent.
Any large, amorphous organization without real identity. Coined by Kurt Vonnegut. www.nytimes.com/2004/10/03/weekinreview/03word.html
If you wish to study a granfalloon, just remove the skin of a toy balloon. - Bokonon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granfalloon
How are granfalloons used to apply social pressure?
How can granfalloon techniques be resisted?
Cross reference: Tajfel (1982)
There are two ways we make decisions and hence get persuaded:
When we are motivated and able to pay attention, we take a logical, conscious thinking, central route to decision-making.
This can lead to permanent change in our attitude as we adopt and elaborate upon the speaker‚Äôs arguments.
Here we do not pay attention to persuasive arguments but are swayed instead by surface characteristics such as whether we like the speaker.
In this case although we do change, it is only temporary (although it is to a state where we may be susceptible to further change).
How can awareness of this help resist social pressure?
Brehm (1966) argued that telling people what to do and what not to do was a good way of getting them to do it!
Heilman (1976) found that telling people that a petition was banned increased the signing rate.
A perceived constraint on freedom leads to a resistance in order to assert freedom.
Kohlberg (1969) found that individuals who were at an advanced stage of moral reasoning were more likely to show higher levels of disobedience.
Individuals can be given a clear indication that, in certain situations, unquestioning obedience to commands is inappropriate.
A particularly effective way of making this point is to show individuals (either on video or using real-life examples) what kind of behaviour occurs when ‚Äėdisobedience‚Äô takes place.
In this way a model for this type of behaviour is provided, making it easier for individuals to follow on if they wish.
Can you think of an example of this?
The society an individual is raised in can affect their level of independence,
for example, higher rates of obedience are found in Germany than France.
Eskimos show more independent behaviour than members of some African tribes (Berry, 1966, 1967).
Feeling of responsibility
Individuals who receive commands from authority figures can be reminded that they ‚Äď not the authorities ‚Äď are responsible for any harm produced.
When this in fact happens, it is observed that there are real reductions in the tendency to obey.