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Independent behaviour was shown in the social influence studies of both

Asch and Milgram. In a variation of his conformity study, Asch found that the
presence of an ally who also disagreed with the majority helped participants to
reject the view of the majority and maintain their own judgement about the
length of the lines displaying a desire to retain a sense of individuality. Moreover,
when the task was made more difficult (by making all three lines more similar to
the reference line) then conformity rates increased due to them not having any
time or support to make their own decisions. This shows that when a task is easy
and the correct answer is obvious, individuals are more likely to stick to their own
views and behave independently. A similar effect was found in one of Milgrams
variations of his study on obedience to authority. When a participant was joined
by confederate who expressed doubt about delivering electric shocks, the
obedience rates dropped dramatically because they were not acting
independently they began to side with the confederate who disagreed also
showing how adopting to the majority makes people more confident in their
actions over showing independent behaviour. In another variation where the
study was moved from the prestigious Yale University to a run-down office, the
obedience rate dropped from 65% to 48%, suggesting that status is another
factor in independent behaviour as the legitimacy of the test may have been
questioned by the participants and they felt less inclined to act how the
experimenter wanted them too and more independently. Moreover, personal
characteristics can affect whether or not someone is independent as
demonstrated by Crutchfield (1955) found out that participants with high scores
in intelligence and leadership displayed a greater independence when faced with
pressures from a unanimous majority revealing a desire to maintain control and
individuality. Moreover people who have expressed an opinion in public are far
less likely to be swayed in their opinion than people who have kept their opinion
private. Simply making a public statement seems to create a commitment to an
idea that people do not want to back down and change meaning they display
independent behaviour.


There are, however, limitations of both Aschs and Milgrams studies.

Both were laboratory studies, featuring tasks that lacked mundane realism. This
can lead to lower external validity, as people do not undertake these types of
tasks in real life like testing the length of lines or giving shocks to an individual
therefore, the findings cannot be generalized to the public. There are also
ethical problems, particularly in Milgrams study, where some participants
suffered psychological harm such as stress as they believed they were genuinely
delivering electric shocks due to lack of informed consent and deception etc.
In Western cultures where it seems that people may feel uncomfortable if they
are the same as others around them all the time they have a greater desire to be
individual. Snyder & Fromkin (1980) compared two groups of American students
to see which was most likely to conform. One group were told they had attitudes
that were the same as 10,000 other students, and the other group was told their

attitude was very different to 10,000 other students. The group who were told
their attitude was the same were more likely to resist conforming than the group
who were told they had individual attitudes. This showed that students who were
led to believe they already had a conforming attitude made extra effort to assert
themselves as individuals. This also shows how the study of Asch and Milgram
may not be valid in explaining independent behaviour due to it being culturally
biased because the experiments took part in the U.S a westernised culture- not
a collectivist culture also, as independent behaviour would be much lower in
countries who conform universally e.g. South Korea
Another area of research into independent behaviour has focused on personality.
Locus of control (LOC), created by Rotter 1966, refers to peoples perceptions of
the amount of personal control they have over events in their lives. Individuals
with who score highly on the LOC are high internals who see themselves as
highly in control of their actions meaning they are more likely to exhibit
independent behaviour whereas those with a low score (external locus) believe
that their behaviour is caused mostly by fate, luck or other external
circumstances and on a whole are more likely to conform.
The idea of a link between LOC and independent behaviour was supported by
Elms and Milgram (1974) who found that a sub-sample of the disobedient
participants in some of Milgrams experiments scored highly on the LOC scale
which proved how people who display independent behaviour are less likely to
side with the majority and they act alone in their views. Other research has
found that those with a high external LOC are more likely to be persuaded and to
conform. This suggests that differences in LOC are related to differences in
independent behaviour.