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Social influence-conformity

Baron et al 2006- conformity = a type of social influence in which individuals

change their attitudes, beliefs or behaviour in order to adhere to existing social norms.

Jenness 1932

-Students individually were asked the number of beans in a bottle first
-he then put students in a small group and asked each student to estimate the number
of beans again
-finally, he asked the same students on an individual basis to estimate the number of
beans in a bottle.

-in group condition students went with majority view
-which then persisted when students were asked individually again.

*The autokinetic effect- SHERIF 1936

-demonstrating that people conform to a majority view/ social norms when put in an
ambiguous situation

-individuals on their own made judgements whether light was moving in a darkened
-Estimates from 20-30cm, 60-80cm were common
-sheriff then put 3 people in a room together
-put together 2 people whose estimate of the light movement when alone was very
similar, and one person whose estimate was different
-Each of the three people said aloud how much they thought the light moved-they did
this a number of times.


-the persons whose estimate of movement was greatly different to the other 2
conformed to their view.

- Deviant
in the group conformed to the majority view- this took place over a small
number of trials of the autokinetic task.
Evaluation of autokinetic effect- sherif 1936

- do not come across this effect in everyday life

- ambiguous social situations results in conformity (e.g. restaurant with many
cutlery you do not know what they are used for)

- Difference between autokinetic effect and restaurant scenario (ambiguous

social situation) = in restaurant there are social norms/rules but with
autokinetic effect there is no there is no right or wrong answer as it is an

- Asch1955 -Shows some aspects of conformity but did not demonstrate how
social or group pressure would affect the judgements people make when there
is clearly a right or wrong answer.

Asch 1951-pilot study

Aim- to ensure line judgment task was easy

- asked 36 people on an individual basis to match target line with one of the
comparison lines.
- Each person did this 20 times with slightly different versions to the task

-720 judgments were made
- 717 correct responses

-task is clear and easy
* Asch 1951

- Investigating the influence of an incorrect majority view on an individual
exposed to this view.


- Using line judgement

- Put a participant in the same room as seven other people
- The seven agreed before the task the responses they were going to give
- The real (naïve) did not know this and thought the other 7 were participants to.
- Each individual in the room had to state aloud to the others which comparison
line was most like the target line in length.
- The naïve gave their answer last
- In some trials the 7 confederates gave the same wrong comparison line for the

- (Asch was interested whether the naïve would conform to the unanimous but
wrong majority answer/view.)


-measured the number of times the naïve gave a correct answer or conformed to
incorrect answer

• Just over 22% gave correct answers on all 12 occasions

• 78% gave at least one incorrect response inline with majority view
• 5% went along with majority answer on all 12 occasions


-conformity happens even though it is clear that majority view is wrong.

-in asch’s pilot study only 3 incorrect judgments were made out of 720 answers
-Asch concluded that groups exert pressure on an individual in some way to conform
to a majority view.
British psychological society’s Code of
Ethics and conduct (mar 06)- sates deception
Ecological should be used ‘to preserve the integrity of
the research’

Methodolog Deceived
Ethical about the
Difficult to generalise i-cal issues issues reasons of
the findings of conducting the
conformity to the real Evaluation of experiment e.g
world perception
asch’s study
Informed consent-participant
has had the procedure and purpose of the Told true
experiment fully explained to them before purposes of
taking part- and therefore give their study after
Line judgments is not task
consent after their knowledge of
a task we do everyday
BPSC-unless informed consent experiment
given study should be restricted
to observation s.
No informed consent
was given

characteristics- Harm to
when participant tries Participants with
to guess what the low self esteem may participants
experiment is about have had an after
unsure of their own
Was told cover story however judgements
participant may not have
believed this
Naïve- Thought experimenter
wanted them to agree with

Deutsch and Gerard 1955- put forward a distinction between

-normative social influence and
-informational social influence to account for conformity.
*Anderson et al 1992- normative social influence

-to show that women’s ideal body size is related to reliability of food supply in a
-hypothesised that In cultures where women had a reliable food supply the ideal body
size would be ‘slender’


- women from 54 countries were asked about their ideal body size in relation to
the categories:
- Slender, moderate, and heavy body size.
- Each culture was categorized to the above as well.


-heavy body ideal where food is unreliable/scarce

-slender/thin where food is reliable/enough

-Where food supplies are very reliable, there is evidence of normative social influence
*Baron et al 1996 (novel variation of ash’s study)

-hypothesised that conformity would be greater where people have less confidence in
their judgment
-participants were shown a drawing of a person then asked to match it with one of the
other 3 drawings.

-first condition: participants shown the drawing for 5 seconds

-2nd condition: pps were shown the drawing for half a second

Before being asked to match the drawing pps heard the wrong judgements of two
assistants of the experimenter


-Conformity to the wrong matching of the drawing by the assistants was higher in the
half a second condition.

- when there is not sufficient info to be sure of a judgment, informational social

influence will cause people to conform more.

*Asch 1955 -decreasing conformity

• one study: one of the confederates always gave the right answer = conformity level of the
naïve dropped by 10%

• another study-‘extreme dissenter’ : -6 confederates gave the same wrong answer

- 7th confederate gave different wrong answer
- Conformity levels dropped by 10%

• Group sizes- large group size= more conformity

-small groups of 2-3, 1or2 confederates giving wrong answer = 10% decrease in conformity

• Asch did the same process as the original method but then asked the naïve to write the answer-
conformity levels were very low.
Cruthfield 1955

-investigate levels of conformity when other people are not present.


-participants sat in separate booths side by side

-each booth had a set of switches and lights
-each participant told they would be given a simple task to make a decision about
e.g. Asch’s line judgement
-they were told that 5 other people would be doing the same task and that the
participant would see their answers-shown as lights, before being asked their own
view or decision
-pps indicted their view by flipping one of the switches –representing
their choice.


-levels of conformity to majority view dropped to below 50%

-whereas in asch’s study 77% conformed at least once to majority view.
-with statements of opinion conformity was below 35%


-conformity levels low when not exposed to other people

-actual presence of people increases the likelihood of a person conforming to
view-this indicates that social pressure has a strong effect on behaviour.

Crutfield 1955- low self-esteem,

Low intelligence = high levels of conformity
High levels of anxiety
High need for social approval

Stang 1973
-attractiveness of group belonging to a group affects conformity
- More attractive a group is the increase of conformity
Latane and L’Herrou 1996

-low cohesive groups show low levels of conformity

-cohesive= extent individuals in the group like each other and prize of being a
member of the group

Smith and Harris 1993

- carried out a review of conformity studies conducted in different cultures

around the world between 1957-1985

- individualistic cultures e.g. UK, USA-personal choice and individual

achievement is valued

- Collectivist cultures e.g. china, asia- value good of the group over individual

-conformity higher in collectivist cultures than individual cultures.

Collectivist cultures strive to achieve group harmony more than
individualistic cultures do.

Adorno et al 1950

-the authoritarian personality (values obedience rules) = high levels of