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Conformity Behavior




Conformity is the process by which an individual's attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors are influenced by other people. Aschs Research on Conformity: Social Pressure-the irresistible Force Perhaps the most influential study of conformity came from Solomon E. Asch (1951). Asch gave groups of seven or nine college students what appeared to be a test of perceptual judgment: matching the length of a line segment to comparison lines. Each subject saw a pair of cards set up in front of the room, similar to the ones that follow.

equal to the standard line. They could see the difference. However, they were influenced by eight people in a row making the "wrong" decision. Asked later why they had made such obviously incorrect judgments, subjects reported, "They must have been looking at line widths" or "I assumed it was an optical illusion" or "If eight out of nine people made the same choice, I must have missed something in the instructions." Asch obtained the conformity effect even when the confederate declared an eleveninch line to be equivalent to a four-inch standard. He found that small groups-even groups of three, containing two confederates and one nave subject-were sufficient to induce the effect. About a quarter of the subjects remained independent throughout the testing and never changed their judgments to fit those of the group. One could argue that Asch's experiment showed stubborn independence in some people, just as it showed conformity in others. A subject who did not conform reported to Asch later: I've never had any feeling that there was any virtue in being like others. I'm used to being different. I often come out well by being different. I don't like easy group opinions. Asch later tested the effect of having a dissenter in the group. He found that if only one of seven confederates disagreed with the group decision, this was enough to free most subjects from the conformity effect. However, if the dissenter defected later, joining the majority after the first five trials, rates of conformity increased again. The public nature of the judgment also seemed to have an effect. If subjects were invited to write their responses in private, while the majority made oral responses, this destroyed the conformity effect. Asch's experiment inspired a lot of follow-up research by other experimenters. Factors found to increase conformity included the following: What factors increased the extent of conformity? 1. Attractiveness of other members in the group (people tended to go along with a group of attractive people) 2. Complexity or difficulty of the task (people were more likely to conform if the judgment was difficult). 3. Group cohesiveness (people conformed more if friendships or mutual

Stimuli like those used by Asch Subjects received instructions: the following

This is a task involving the discrimination of lengths of lines. Before you, is a pair of cards. On the left is a card with one line. The card at the right has three lines different in length; they are numbered 1, 2, and 3, in order. One of the three lines at the right is equal to the standard line at the left-you will decide in each case which is the equal line. You will state your judgment in terms of the number of the line. There will be 18 such comparisons in all. As the number of comparisons is few and the group is small, I will call upon each of you in turn to announce your judgments. In a group of nine, eight subjects were actually confederates of the experimenter. The experiment was rigged so that the genuine (nave) subject was called upon next-to-last in the group. The experimenter's confederates had been instructed, in advance, to make deliberately ridiculous judgments on many of the trials, but to agree unanimously with one another. On 12 of the 18 trials, they said in loud voices (for example) that the 4 1/2" line was exactly equal to 3" standard line. The pressure of the group had a dramatic effect. Although people could pick the correct line 99% of the time when making the judgments by themselves, they went along with the erroneous group judgment 75% of the time, even when it was plainly wrong. The conforming subjects did not fool themselves into thinking the wrong line was

dependencies were set up beforehand).

Informational influence Informational social influence occurs when one turns to the members of one's group to obtain accurate information. A person is most likely to use informational social influence in three situations: When a situation is ambiguous, people become uncertain about what to do. They are more likely to depend on others for the answer. During a crisis when immediate action is necessary, in spite of panic. Looking to other people can help ease fears, but unfortunately they are not always right. The more knowledgeable a person is the more valuable they are as a resource. Thus people often turn to experts for help. But once again people must be careful, as experts can make mistakes too. Informational social influence often results in internalization or private acceptance, where a person genuinely believes that the information is right. Informational social influence was first documented in Muzafer Sherif's autokinetic experiment. He was interested in how many people change their opinions to bring them in line with the opinion of a group. Participants were placed in a dark room and asked to stare at a small dot of light 15 feet away. They were then asked to estimate the amount it moved. The trick was there was no movement; it was caused by a visual illusion known as the autokinetic effect. Every person perceived different amounts of movement. Over time, the same estimate was agreed on and others conformed to it. Sherif suggested that this was a simulation for how social norms develop in a society, providing a common frame of reference for people. Subsequent experiments were based on more realistic situations. In an eyewitness identification task, participants were shown a suspect individually and then in a lineup of other suspects. They were given one second to identify him, making it a difficult task. One group was told that their input was very important and would be used by the legal community. To the other it was simply a trial. Being more motivated to get the right answer increased the tendency to conform. Those who wanted to be most accurate conformed 51% of the time as opposed to 35% in the other group.

series of lines, and the participants were asked to match one line with a standard line. All participants except one were secretly told to give the wrong answer in 12 of the 18 trials. The results showed a surprisingly high degree of conformity. 76% of the participants conformed on at least one trial. On average people conformed one third of the time. Normative influence is a function of social impact theory which has three components. The number of people in the group has a surprising effect. As the number increases, each person has less of an impact. A group's strength is how important the group is to a person. Groups we value generally have more social influence. Immediacy is how close the group is in time and space when the influence is taking place. Psychologists have constructed a mathematical model using these three factors and are able to predict the amount of conformity that occurs with some degree of accuracy. Baron and his colleagues conducted a second "eyewitness study", this time focusing on normative influence. In this version, the task was made easier. Each participant was given five seconds to look at a slide, instead of just one second. Once again there were both high and low motives to be accurate, but the results were the reverse of the first study. The low motivation group conformed 33% of the time (similar to Asch's findings). The high motivation group conformed less at 16%. These results show that when accuracy is not very important, it is better to get the wrong answer than to risk social disapproval. An experiment using procedures similar to Asch's found that there was significantly less conformity in six-person groups of friends as compared to six-person groups of strangers. Because friends already know and accept each other, there may be less normative pressure to conform in some situations. Field studies on cigarette and alcohol abuse, however, generally demonstrate evidence of friends exerting normative social influence on each other.

Resisting Pressures to Conform: Why, Sometimes, We choose Not to Go Along

Normative influence Normative social influence occurs when one conforms to be liked or accepted by the members of the group. It usually results in public compliance, doing or saying something without believing in it. Solomon E. Asch was the first psychologist to study this phenomenon in the laboratory. He conducted a modification of Sherifs study, assuming that when the situation was very clear, conformity would be drastically reduced. He exposed people in a group to a

In many cases, individuals of groups of individuals do resist. This was certainly true in Aschs research but only part of the time. On many occasions they stuck to their guns even in the face of unanimous majority that disagreed with them. Most of us make similar choices we confirm to most social norms but not completely, and certainly not to all of them. What accounts to this ability to resist even powerful pressures of conformity? Many factors appear to be very important but two seem to be very important: The need to maintain our own individuality and the need to control over our own lives. Yes we want to be like others but not to the extent that we lose our personal identity. In other words along the needs to be right and to be liked most

of us possess a desire for individualization-for being indistinguishable for others in some respect. In general, we want exactly like others especially others we like or respect but we dont want to be exactly like these persons because that would involve giving up our individuality. If this is so, then an interesting prediction relating to cultural diversity Follows: The tendency to conform will be lower in cultures that emphasize individuality (individualistic cultures) than in ones being emphasized being part of the group (Collectivist cultures). A large study by bond and Smith (1996) examined their hypothesis by comparing conformity in seventeen different countries. They examined the results of 133 past studies that used Aschs line judging task to measure conformity. Among these studies, they identified ones conducted in the countries with collectivistic cultures e.g. countries in Africa and Asia and ones with individualistic amount of conformity ones in North America and Western Europe. Then they compare the amount of conformity shown on these groups of countries. Result indicated that more conformity did indeed occur in the countries with collectivistic cultures where the motive to maintain ones individuality was expected to be lower and this was true regardless of the size of the influencing group. Another reason why individuals often choose to resist group pressures involves the desire to maintain control over the events in their lives. Most person want to believe that they can determine what happen to them and yielding to social pressure sometimes runs counter to this desire. After all going along with the group implies in ways behaving one might not ordinarily choose and this in turn can view as restriction of personal freedom and control. The result of many studies that the stronger individuals need for personal control the less likely they are to yield to social pressure; so this factor too appears to be an important one where resisting conformity is concern. In sum, two motives- the desire to retain our individuality and the desire to retain control over our lives serve to counter our desire to be liked and to be accurate and so reduce conformity. Whether we conform in a given situation then it depends on the relative strength of the various motives and complex interplay between them.

gaining resources and keeping them depends on the communitys belief that the man can protect those resources against predators. Toughness is a strong value in such a culture because of its effect on the deterrence of such predators from ones possessions. In order to maintain this sort of reputation in the community, one must always be on guard and respond to any insult or threat with violence or present a warning of violence. According to Hayes in Reexamining the Subculture of Violence in the South, the term 'honor' as defined here has more to do with the willingness to use violence when it is expected than the more traditional definition of bravery or moral character. It is a common belief that the cause of high violence rates in the Southern United States is due to this cultural quality. The culture of honor mentality began back when Southern United States was first settled for various economic and social reasons based on the time period, so why does it still persist today? In their study, Cohen and Nisbett mention that violence in the South based on homicide that were argument- or conflict-related (not committed while another felony such as robbery is being performed) are much higher relative to the North showing a much stronger reaction of southerners to protection based conflicts. Culture of honor norms are embodied in the regions laws as well as seen in looser gun control laws and less restrictive self-defense laws. Nisbett and colleagues suggest that the persistence of these qualities have occurred because of the achieved degree of functional autonomy. That is, it has been characteristic of southern culture for so long and passed from generation to generation that it has just been socially accepted and continued. Also, themes of culture of honor can be noticed in many past and contemporary country music songs that are generally related to southern culture. Minority influence One of the most striking findings from using the Asch paradigm was the extent to which conforming responses are reduced if the participant is no longer isolated. Adding just one person who shares the individuals judgement makes it much more likely that the participant will resist the pressure to conform from the majority. Resistance, however, is only one option for the individual (and his or her supporter) in such circumstances. They could go further than mere resistance and actively seek to change the majoritys viewpoint, attempting to convince them that they are wrong and that he or she is right. The French psychologist Serge Moscovici was one of the first researchers to study the conditions under which minorities can become an effective source of influence.

Persistence of the Culture of Honor

Culture of Honor is a term generally used to describe the American southern culture and is related to the use of violence for the purpose of maintaining a reputation. This quality is viewed to be important for a man in any region where

Explanations of minority influence Moscovici (1976) argues that cases of minority influence and especially the influence of innovators such as Galileo and Freud cannot be accounted for in the way that social psychology has traditionally explained majority influence. Minorities do not have the sanctions that can be used by majorities (punishment or rejection), they are few in number and often ridiculed at the outset. In other words they possess neither normative nor informational influence. Moscovici proposes a dual process theory to explain the two forms of social influence. Majority influence, according to Moscovici can best be explained in terms of public compliance (the person is more concerned with the reaction of the group than to the issue itself). Minority influence is the result of the majority being persuaded to examine the minoritys viewpoint. This may start a process of conversion where attitudes begin a genuine shift. Because it is a genuine conversion, minority influence is longer lasting. In contrast, public compliance as a result of majority influence may not change the individuals private viewpoint and they will revert to this once released from normative influence. Their source of impact results from what Moscovici calls behavioural style, the most important aspects of which are consistency. Only if minority members are consistent, i.e. agree amongst themselves (at least publicly) and continue to do so over a period of time, will they be able to make the majority begin to question their position and open the way to being influenced. Nemeth (1986) has offered a cognitive explanation of minority influence. To explain the effect of a consistent majority, she suggests that a minority within a group that consistently disagrees has the effect of changing what the majority pays attention to and encouraging new ways of thinking. Majority influence tends to produce convergent and unimaginative thinking as people merely imitate the ideas of others. The presence of a dissenting voice may encourage people to think more laterally and creatively. In the case of juries, for example, attending to the minority view can result in paying closer attention to the details of the case and finding new ways of interpreting the evidence.