CONFORMITY is the degree to which members of a group will change their views and attitudes to fit the views of the group . The group can influence members via unconscious processes or via overt social pressure on individuals.
Social Pressure and Perception Solomon Asch PLAY MOVIE
Asch showed bars like those in the Figure to college students in groups of 8 to 10. He told them he was studying visual perception and that their task was to decide which of the bars on the right was the same length as the one on the left. As you can see, the task is simple, and the correct answer is obvious .
Asch asked the students to give their answers aloud. He repeated the procedure with 18 sets of bars. Only one student in each group was a real subject. All the others were confederates who had been instructed to give incorrect answers on 12 of the 18 trials.
Asch arranged for the real subject to be the next-to-the-last person in each group to announce his answer so that he would hear most of the confederates incorrect responses before giving his own. Would he go along with the crowd?
37 of the 50 subjects conformed to the majority at least once
Asch was disturbed by these results:
"The tendency to conformity in our society is so strong that reasonably intelligent and well-meaning young people are willing to call white black. This is a matter of concern. It raises questions about our ways of education and about the values that guide our conduct."
People conform for two main reasons:
because they believe the group is better informed than they are.
because they want to be liked by the group
“ People frequently followed the majority judgment, even when the majority was wrong.” –Anonymous
Some Factors Affecting Conformity
unanimity of the group
commitment to the initial judgment
need for individuation
rewards and punishments
the size of the opposing majority
“ It is difficult to be a minority of one but not so difficult to be part of a minority of two.”
~This is the Normative influence
Sherif used a lab experiment to study conformity. He used the autokinetic
effect – this is where a small spot of light (projected onto a screen) in a dark
room will appear to move, even though it is still.
Autokinetic Effect Muzafer Sherif
It was discovered that when participants were individually tested their estimates on how far the light moved varied considerably (e.g. from 20cm to 80cm).
The participants were then tested in groups of three.
Sherif manipulated the composition of the group by putting together two people whose estimate of the light movement when alone was very similar, and one person whose estimate was very different.
Each person in the group had to say aloud how far they thought the light had moved.
Results: Sherif found that over numerous estimates (trials) of the movement of light, the group converged to a common estimate
Conclusion: They want to do the right thing but may lack the appropriate information. Observing others can provide this information.
~This is known as informational conformity .
Conformity and Obedience Stanley Milgram
focuses on the conflict between obedience to authority and personal conscience.
Obedience - is an act of compliance to someone or a group or institution with power over us.
The participants in the were 40 men recruited using newspaper ads. Each was paid $4.50.
Milgram developed an intimidating shock generator, with shock levels starting at 30 volts and increasing all the way up to 450 volts . The many switches were labeled with terms including " slight shock ," " moderate shock " and " danger: severe shock ." The final two switches were labeled simply with an ominous " XXX ."
Most participants asked the experimenter whether they should continue. The experimenter issued a series of commands to prod the participant along:
"The experiment requires that you continue."
"It is absolutely essential that you continue."
"You have no other choice, you must go on.“
The level of shock that the participant was willing to deliver was used as the measure of obedience. In reality, 65% of the participants in Milgram’s study delivered the maximum shocks.
There are a number of situational factors that can explain such high levels of obedience:
The physical presence of an authority figure dramatically increased compliance.
The fact that the study was sponsored by Yale (a trusted and authoritative academic institution) led many participants to believe that the experiment must be safe.
The selection of teacher and learner status seemed random.
Participants assumed that the experimenter was a competent expert.
The shocks were said to be painful, not dangerous.
"Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority" (Milgram, 1974).