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Using psychological studies of conformity to discuss reasons for conforming

Types of conformity A. Publicly acting in accord with social pressure while privately disagreeing. This term best describes the behavior of a person who is motivated to gain reward or avoid punishment.

As with compliance, we do not behave in a particular way because such behavior is intrinsically satisfying. Rather, we adopt a particular behavior because it puts us in a satisfying relationship to the person or persons with whom we are identifying. We do come to believe in the opinions and values we adopt, though not very strongly. We want to be like some particular person. Want to be just like your father.

Both acting and believing in accord with social pressure. This is the most permanent, deeply rooted response to social influence.

  • When we commit a wrong, we feel guilty;
  • Conformity is also known as majority influence or group pressure;
  • Group pressure may take different forms, for example bullying, persuasion, teasing, criticism, etc;
  • Indeed, there are many factors that contribute to an individual's desire to remain independent of the group;
  • Internalisation genuine acceptance of group norms This occurs 'when an individual accepts influence because the content of the induced behavior - the ideas and actions of which it is composed - is intrinsically rewarding.

Internalization is motivated by a desire to be right. If the person who provides the influence is perceived to be trustworthy and of good judgment, we accept the belief he or she advocates and we integrate it into our belief system.

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Comparison of the three: Compliance is the least enduring and has the least effect on the individual, because people comply merely to gain reward or to avoid punishment. Rewards and punishments are very important means to get people to learn and to perform specific activities but are limited as techniques of social influence because they must be ever present to be effective - unless the individual discovers some additional reason for continuing the behavior.

Continuous reward or punishment is not necessary for identification. All that is needed is the individual's desire to be like that person.

  • The greater the publicity and surveillance associated with the behavior, the greater the conformity;
  • Most of the subjects who yielded to the majority concluded their own perceptions were inaccurate;
  • Conservative Republicans were badly beaten in 1964;
  • Because we identify with the model, we want to hold the same opinions that the model holds.

You will continue to hold beliefs similar to the SO as long as he remains important to you, he still holds the same beliefs, and those beliefs are not challenged by counter-opinions that are more convincing. If the SOs beliefs change or he becomes less important to you, your beliefs can change. They can also change if people who are more important to you express different beliefs.

The effect of identification can also be dissipated by a desire to be right. Internalization is the most permanent response to social influence because your motivation to be right is a powerful and self-sustaining force that does not depend on constant surveillance as does complianceor on your continued esteem for another person or group as does identification. In compliance, the important component is power -the power of the influencer to dole out rewards and punishments.

In identification, the crucial component is attractiveness - the attractiveness of the person with whom we identify. Because we identify with the model, we want to hold the same opinions that the model holds. In internalization, the crucial component is credibility - the credibility of the person who supplies the information 5.

Asch Experiment

Any of the three can determine behavior. In the Asch studies, it seems obvious the subjects were complying with the unanimous opinion of the group in order to avoid the punishment of ridicule or rejection. If either identification or internalization had been involved, the conforming behavior would have persisted in private NOTE: Subjects gave different answers when responses were not public.

Circumstances can increase the permanence of conformity produced by compliance or identification. While complying, we might discover something about our actions, or about the consequences of our actions, that makes it worthwhile to continue the behavior even after the original reason for compliance is no longer forthcoming.

For example, people came to obey speeding laws even after enforcement was lessened because they liked the less hectic pace. Sherif's studies of Norm formation. People looked at stationary light - and then formed a group consensus as to how far the light moved. Illustrated power of suggestibility. Later showed a suggestion could continue through five or more generations of participants.

Have real-life examples of the power of suggestibility - suicides and auto accidents go up after a prominent person commits suicide. Asch's studies of group pressure. Asch believed intelligent people would not conform when they could readily see the truth for themselves.

Showed people lines - a third of the time subjects were willing to go against their better judgment and agree with the group.

  1. In compliance, the important component is power -the power of the influencer to dole out rewards and punishments. American Psychologist, 10, 191-198.
  2. The greater the publicity and surveillance associated with the behavior, the greater the conformity. Only if a group has drifted aimlessly or has failed repeatedly to achieve its goals will an effort to change goals be favorably received.
  3. It was discovered that when participants were individually tested their estimates on how far the light moved varied considerably e. Number — A higher number of people present that support the conforming view, the greater the levels of conformity.
  4. Number — A higher number of people present that support the conforming view, the greater the levels of conformity.
  5. It disrupts normal operations and challenges the group's conception of reality.

Asch found that three different kinds of reactions had contributed to the conformity. A number of subjects said they were not aware their estimates had been distorted by the majority.

They came to see the rigged majority estimates as correct. Most of the subjects who yielded to the majority concluded their own perceptions were inaccurate. Lacking confidence in their own observations, they reported not what they saw but what they felt must be correct.

A number of subjects admitted that they had not reported what they had in fact seen. They said they had yielded so as not to appear different or stupid in the eyes of other group members.

Crutchfield did a similar study with military officers. In the above, there was no explicit pressure to conform. Milgram did his electric shock studies. These studies show compliance can take precedence over one's own moral senses. Evil situations have enormous corrupting power. Fragmenting evil makes it even more effective. We tend to make the fundamental attribution error when looking at such things - but Milgram said "The most fundamental lesson of our study is that ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process.

Informational influence - Behavior of others might convince us that our original judgment was incorrect. The group's behavior provides valuable info about what is expected. Wish to avoid punishment such as rejection or ridicule or gain rewards. We are concerned about our social image and outcomes. Groups create barriers to independent behavior. Risk of disapproval from other group members.

By deviating too far, individuals risk rejection. Lack of perceived alternatives. A member may not realize he has any other choice but conformity. In Milgram experiments, subjects were told they had no other choice. Fear of disrupting the group's operations.

People fear independence will hamper the attainment of group goals. Absence of communication among group members. Lacking information that others might join in the nonconforming action, they avoid going out on a limb. No feeling of responsibility for group outcomes. Members who conform may cause a group to fail to meet its objectives. They hesitate to take the initiative to turn the situation around, especially if they do not feel personally responsible for the group's success or failure.

A sense of powerlessness. If a person feels that he cannot change the situation, he is unlikely to try anything new. The apathy becomes self-fulfilling. No one tries anything different, and consequently, nothing improves.

  • When they were interviewed after the experiment, most of them said that they did not really believe their conforming answers, but had gone along with the group for fear of being ridiculed or thought "peculiar;
  • Sherif found that over numerous estimates trials of the movement of light, the group converged to a common estimate;
  • He asked participants individually to estimate how many beans the bottle contained;
  • Subjects completed 18 trials;
  • No feeling of responsibility for group outcomes.

What increases or decreases conformity? Any puncturing of unanimity makes it easier to defy the group even if the other defier is an idiot! In fact, even if one other person gives an incorrect response that is different from the error the others are making i.

Group size - but the group needn't be that big. Groups of 3 people are about as influential as groups of 16. The more attracted individuals are to the group, the more likely they are to conform to its dictates. Status of the person who is being asked to obey. There are different theories about the effect of status on conformity. Homans takes the view that both high and low status individuals conform less than those intermediate in status.

He reasons that one deviation is unlikely to jeopardize the position of a high status person, and that low status people have little to lose by nonconformity. But for persons of intermediate status, the situation is different; they lack the standing of the high status person, and unlike the low status person, they have plenty of room for downward mobility. Some research confirms this, but other research does not.

Milgram found lower status types obeyed orders more readily. Conversely, higher status people, or those who feel they are more competent at the task in question, are more likely to resist group pressure.

Individuals who have a generally low opinion of themselves are far more likely to yield to group pressure than those with high self-esteem. Norwegians conform more than the French.

Japanese students are more willing to take a minority position than American Students. The greater the publicity and surveillance associated with the behavior, the greater the conformity. Where behavior is difficult to monitor, the effectiveness of social sanctions is weakened. In public settings, we are likely to experience pressures for compliance although private acceptance may be absent.

Once people have given an answer, they are much more likely to stick with it than when they hear others first. Those who state own opinions first are much less open to influence. Don't want to appear wishy-washy.