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Social Psychology Elliot Aronson University of California, Santa Cruz Timothy D. Wilson University of Virginia Robin M. Akert Wellesley College slides by Travis Langley Henderson State University 6th edition
Chapter 8 Conformity: Influencing Behavior It were not best that we should all think alike; it is difference of opinion that makes horse races. —Mark Twain
Conformity: When and Why American culture stresses the importance of not conforming. American mythology has celebrated the rugged individualist in many ways. The photograph of a cowboy alone on the range has been an archetypal image. It has also sold a lot of cigarettes. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
Conformity: When and Why But are we, in fact, nonconforming creatures? Are the decisions we make always based on what we think, or do we sometimes use other people’s behavior to help us decide what to do?
Conformity: When and Why But are we, in fact, nonconforming creatures? Are the decisions we make always based on what we think, or do we sometimes use other people’s behavior to help us decide what to do? Conformity A change in one’s behavior due to the real or imagined influence of other people. Conformity A change in one’s behavior due to the real or imagined influence of other people.
Informational Social Influence: The Need to Know What’s “Right” How should you address your psychology professor—as “Dr. Berman,” “Professor Berman,” “Ms. Berman,” or “Patricia”? How should you vote in the upcoming referendum that would raise your tuition to cover expanded student services? Do you cut a piece of sushi or eat it whole? Did the scream you just heard in the hallway come from a person joking with friends or from the victim of a mugging?
Informational Social Influence: The Need to Know What’s “Right” Informational Social Influence The influence of other people that leads us to conform because we see them as a source of information to guide our behavior. We conform because we believe that others’ interpretation of an ambiguous situation is more correct than ours and will help us choose an appropriate course of action.
Sherif (1936): Alone in a dark room, participants estimated how much a light 15 feet away moved. Even though the light did not move, the autokinetic effect caused the illusion of motion. The light seem to move, usually about 2-4 inches but as much as 10 inches. Days later, the participants did it again but not alone, this time with other people who reached a common estimate. Participants’ estimates tended to conform to these, as shown in the next slide.
These results indicate that people used each other as a source of information, coming to believe that the group estimate was correct.
Public Compliance Conforming to other people’s behavior publicly without necessarily believing in what we are doing or saying. Private Acceptance Conforming to other people’s behavior out of a genuine belief that what they are doing or saying is right. Sherif cast doubt on public compliance, however, by asking people to judge the lights again when alone. They continued to give the group’s answer.
The Importance of Being Accurate The degree to which eyewitnesses conform to others when picking suspects out of police lineups depends on the importance of the task. Those who expected to receive $20 for accurate identification were correct most often when alone. However, when not alone, they sought information from others and conformed more regardless of accuracy. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
When Informational Conformity Backfires When one’s personal safety is involved, the need for information is acute—and the behavior of others is very informative. Contagion The rapid spread of emotions or behaviors through a crowd. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
When Informational Conformity Backfires Mass Psychogenic Illness The occurrence, in a group of people, of similar physical symptoms with no known physical cause. In 1998, a teacher in Tennessee reported a gasoline smell in her classroom. The school was evacuated. Over 170 students, teachers, and staff reported symptoms like headaches, nausea, dizziness. But nothing was found to be wrong in the school. The rash of mysterious illness went away.
When Informational Conformity Backfires What is particularly interesting about mass psychogenic illness (as well as other peculiar forms of conformity) is the powerful role that the mass media play in their dissemination. Through television, radio, newspapers, magazines, the Internet, and e-mail, information is spread quickly and efficiently to all segments of the population. Whereas in the Middle Ages it took two hundred years for the “dancing manias” (a kind of psychogenic illness) to crisscross Europe, today it takes only minutes for most of the inhabitants of the planet to learn about an unusual event. Luckily, the mass media also have the power to quickly squelch these uprisings of contagion by introducing more logical explanations for ambiguous events. Source of images: Microsoft Office Online.
When Will People Conform to Informational Social Influence? When the situation is ambiguous. When the situation is a crisis. When other people are experts. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
When the situation is ambiguous AMBIGUITY IS THE MOST CRUCIAL VARIABLE FOR DETERMINING HOW MUCH PEOPLE USE EACH OTHER AS A SOURCE OF INFORMATION. WHEN YOU ARE UNSURE OF THE CORRECT RESPONSE, THE APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR, OR THE RIGHT IDEA, YOU WILL BE MOST OPEN TO INFLUENCE FROM OTHERS. THE MORE UNCERTAIN YOU ARE, THE MORE YOU WILL RELY ON OTHERS. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
When the situation is a crisis IN A CRISIS SITUATION, WE USUALLY DO NOT HAVE TIME TO STOP AND THINK ABOUT EXACTLY WHICH COURSE OF ACTION WE SHOULD TAKE. WE NEED TO ACT—IMMEDIATELY. IF WE FEEL SCARED AND PANICKY AND ARE UNCERTAIN WHAT TO DO, IT IS ONLY NATURAL FOR US TO SEE HOW OTHER PEOPLE ARE RESPONDING AND TO DO LIKEWISE. UNFORTUNATELY, THE PEOPLE WE IMITATE MAY ALSO FEEL SCARED AND PANICKY AND NOT BE BEHAVING RATIONALLY. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
When the situation is a crisis TYPICALLY, THE MORE EXPERTISE OR KNOWLEDGE A PERSON HAS, THE MORE VALUABLE HE OR SHE WILL BE AS A GUIDE IN AN AMBIGUOUS SITUATION. FOR EXAMPLE, A PASSENGER WHO SEES SMOKE COMING OUT OF AN AIRPLANE ENGINE WILL PROBABLY CHECK THE FLIGHT ATTENDANTS’ REACTION RATHER THAN THEIR SEATMATES’. HOWEVER, EXPERTS ARE NOT ALWAYS RELIABLE SOURCES OF INFORMATION. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
Informational Social Influence and Emergencies An emergency is by definition a crisis situation. In many respects, it is an ambiguous situation as well; sometimes there are “experts” present, but sometimes there aren’t. In an emergency, the bystander is thinking: What’s happening? Is help needed? What should I do? What’s everybody else doing? Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
Resisting Informational Social Influence How can we tell when other people are a good source of information and when we should resist their definition of a situation? 1.Remember it is possible to resist illegitimate or inaccurate informational social influence. 2.Ask yourself critical questions: –Do other people know any more about what is going on than I do? –Is an expert handy who should know more? –Do the actions of other people or experts seem sensible? –If I behave the way they do, will it go against my common sense or against my internal moral compass, my sense of right and wrong?
Normative Social Influence: The Need to Be Accepted Why do some adolescents engage in such risky behavior? Why does anyone follow the group’s lead when the resulting behavior is less than sensible and may even be dangerous? We also conform so that we will be liked and accepted by other people.
Normative Social Influence: The Need to Be Accepted Social Norms The implicit or explicit rules a group has for the acceptable behaviors, values, and beliefs of its members. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
Normative Social Influence: The Need to Be Accepted We human beings are by nature a social species. Through interactions with others, we receive emotional support, affection, and love, and we partake of enjoyable experiences. Other people are extraordinarily important to our sense of well-being. Research on individuals who have been isolated for long periods of time indicates that being deprived of human contact is stressful and traumatic.
Normative Social Influence: The Need to Be Accepted Given this fundamental human need for social companionship, it is not surprising that we often conform in order to be accepted by others. Normative Social Influence The influence of other people that leads us to conform in order to be liked and accepted by them. This type of conformity results in public compliance with the group’s beliefs and behaviors but not necessarily private acceptance of those beliefs and behaviors.
Normative Social Influence: The Need to Be Accepted Normative Social Influence The influence of other people that leads us to conform in order to be liked and accepted by them; this type of conformity results in public compliance with the group’s beliefs and behaviors but not necessarily private acceptance of those beliefs and behaviors.
Conformity and Social Approval: The Asch Line Judgment Studies Solomon Asch (1951, 1956) had participants guess which line in the right box is the same length as the line on the left. Almost everyone easily gets this right – when alone.
Conformity and Social Approval: The Asch Line Judgment Studies Asch had people repeatedly evaluate lines like these, while hearing other people also evaluate the lines. Sometimes, though, everyone else got it wrong. Guess how often the participants conformed by repeating those obviously wrong answers.
76% of the participants conformed on at least one trial.
Conformity and Social Approval: The Asch Line Judgment Studies These are classic normative reasons for conforming: People know that what they are doing is wrong but go along anyway so as not to feel peculiar or look like a fool. In contrast to informational social influence, normative pressures usually result in public compliance without private acceptance—people go along with the group even if they do not believe in what they are doing or think it is wrong.
Conformity and Social Approval: The Asch Line Judgment Studies In a variation of his study, Asch (1957) demonstrated the power of social disapproval in shaping a person’s behavior. The confederates gave the wrong answer 12 out of 18 times, as before, but this time the participants wrote their answers on a piece of paper instead of saying them out loud. Now people did not have to worry about what the group thought of them because the group would never find out what their answers were. Conformity dropped dramatically, occurring on an average of only 1.5 of the twelve trials.
Recent research found that when participants conformed to a group’s wrong answers, fMRI indicated brain activity in areas for vision and perception. However, when participants chose to give the right answer and disagree with the group, different areas of the brain became active: the amygdala, an area devoted to negative emotions, and the right caudate nucleus, an area devoted to modulating social behavior. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
The Importance of Being Accurate, Revisited What happens when it is important to people to be accurate? They conform less to the obviously wrong answers of the group. But they still conform sometimes!
The Importance of Being Accurate, Revisited What happens when it is important to people to be accurate? They conform less to the obviously wrong answers of the group. But they still conform sometimes! Even when the group is wrong, the right answer is obvious, and there are strong incentives to be accurate, some people will find it difficult to risk social disapproval, even from strangers.
The Consequences of Resisting Normative Social Influence If you disregard the friendship norms of the group by failing to conform to them, two things would most likely happen: 1.First, the group would try to bring you “back into the fold,” chiefly through increased communication with you, whether long discussions or teasing comments. 2.If these discussions didn’t work, your friends would most likely say negative things to you and about you, and start to withdraw from you.
Normative Social Influence in Everyday Life Although most of us are not slaves to fashion, we tend to wear what is considered appropriate at a given time. Fads are another fairly frivolous example of normative social influence.
SOCIAL INFLUENCE AND WOMEN’S BODY IMAGE A MORE SINISTER FORM OF NORMATIVE SOCIAL INFLUENCE INVOLVES WOMEN’S ATTEMPTS TO CONFORM TO CULTURAL DEFINITIONS OF AN ATTRACTIVE BODY. WHILE MANY, IF NOT MOST, WORLD SOCIETIES CONSIDER PLUMPNESS IN FEMALES ATTRACTIVE, WESTERN CULTURE AND PARTICULARLY AMERICAN CULTURE CURRENTLY VALUE EXTREME THINNESS IN THE FEMALE FORM. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
HEAVY WOMEN WERE FOUND TO BE PREFERRED OVER SLENDER OR MODERATE ONES IN CULTURES WITH UNRELIABLE OR SOMEWHAT UNRELIABLE FOOD SUPPLIES. AS THE RELIABILITY OF THE FOOD SUPPLY INCREASES, THE PREFERENCE FOR HEAVY-TO-MODERATE BODIES DECREASES. MOST DRAMATIC IS THE INCREASE IN PREFERENCE FOR THE SLENDER BODY ACROSS CULTURES. ONLY IN CULTURES WITH VERY RELIABLE FOOD SUPPLIES (LIKE THE UNITED STATES) WAS THE SLENDER BODY TYPE HIGHLY VALUED.
In the 1980s, Brett Silverstein and her colleagues analyzed photographs of women appearing in Ladies’ Home Journal and Vogue magazines from 1901 to 1981, and found how presentation of women had changed over the century.
Standards for physical attractiveness for Japanese women have also undergone changes in recent decades. Since World War II, the preferred look has taken on a “Westernized” element— long-legged, thin bodies or what is called the “hattou shin beauty.” SOCIAL INFLUENCE AND WOMEN’S BODY IMAGE Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
Informational social influence affects how women learn what kind of body is considered attractive at a given time in their culture. Women learn what an attractive body is (and how they compare) from family and friends and from the media. SOCIAL INFLUENCE AND WOMEN’S BODY IMAGE Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
Crandall (1988) found that sororities each develop their own group norms regarding eating disorders. Binge eating served as a form of normative social influence. Throughout the year, new members conformed to their respective sororities group norms. SOCIAL INFLUENCE AND WOMEN’S BODY IMAGE Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
Social Influence and Men’s Body Image Studies conducted in the past decade suggest that cultural norms have changed in that men are beginning to come under the same pressure to achieve an ideal body that women have experienced for decades. The ideal male body is now much more muscular. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
Social Influence and Men’s Body Image Adolescent and young men respond to pressure by developing strategies to achieve the ideal, “six-pack” body. An increasing number are also using risky substances such as steroids or ephedrine to achieve a more muscular physique. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
When Will People Conform to Normative Social Influence? Social Impact Theory The idea that conforming to social influence depends on: The strength of the group’s importance, Its immediacy, and The number of people in the group.
When Will People Conform to Normative Social Influence? The more important a group is to us and the more we are in its presence, the more likely we will be to conform to its normative pressures. But the influence of number operates differently.
As the size of the group increases, each additional person has less effect.
WHEN THE GROUP SIZE IS THREE OR MORE ASCH (1955) AND LATER RESEARCHERS FOUND THAT: CONFORMITY INCREASED AS THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN THE GROUP INCREASED, BUT ONCE THE GROUP REACHED FOUR OR FIVE OTHER PEOPLE, CONFORMITY DOES NOT INCREASE MUCH. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
WHEN THE GROUP IS IMPORTANT NORMATIVE PRESSURES ARE MUCH STRONGER WHEN THEY COME FROM PEOPLE WHOSE FRIENDSHIP, LOVE, AND RESPECT, BECAUSE THERE IS A COST TO LOSING THIS LOVE AND RESPECT. HIGHLY COHESIVE GROUPS CAN MAKE LESS LOGICAL DECISIONS BECAUSE NO ONE WANTS TO UPSET RELATIONSHIPS. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
WHEN ONE HAS NO ALLIES IN THE GROUP If no one else in the group expresses agreement with your dissenting view, it can be difficult to stick to your position. Asch (1955) varied his experiment by having 6 of 7 confederates pick the wrong line instead of all 7. Now the subject was not alone. Conformity dropped to 6% of the trials, as opposed to 32% when alone.
WHEN ONE HAS NO ALLIES IN THE GROUP The difficulty of being the lone dissenter is apparent even in the U.S. Supreme Court. The most common decision ratio is unanimous, 9-0 vote among the Justices. The least common decision ratio is 8-1 with a single dissenter. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
WHEN THE GROUP’S CULTURE IS COLLECTIVISTIC STANLEY MILGRAM (1961, 1977) REPLICATED THE ASCH STUDIES IN NORWAY AND FRANCE AND FOUND THAT THE NORWEGIAN PARTICIPANTS CONFORMED TO A GREATER DEGREE THAN THE FRENCH PARTICIPANTS DID. NORWAY HAS A MORE COLLECTIVISTIC CULTURE THAN FRANCE. THESE DIFFERENCES WERE OBSERVED IN OTHER INTERNATIONAL COMPARISONS AS WELL. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
GENDER DIFFERENCES IN CONFORMITY Eagly & Carli (1981): META-ANALYSIS OF 145 STUDIES OF INFLUENCEABILITY THAT INCLUDED MORE THAN 21,000 PARTICIPANTS FOUND THAT, ON AVERAGE, MEN ARE LESS PRONE TO BEING INFLUENCED THAN WOMEN. BUT THE SIZE OF THE DIFFERENCE WAS VERY SMALL. ONLY SLIGHTLY MORE THAN HALF OF MEN ARE LESS INFLUENCEABLE THAN THE AVERAGE WOMAN. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
GENDER DIFFERENCES IN CONFORMITY One other finding in this area is surprising and controversial. The gender of the person conducting conformity studies makes a difference too. Eagly and Carli (1981) found that male researchers were more likely than female researchers to find that men were less influenceable. Source of image: Microsoft Office Online.
Resisting Normative Social Influence What can we do to resist inappropriate normative social influence? 1.Be aware that it is operating. 2.Take action. Try to find an ally 3.Conforming most of the time earns an occasional deviation without consequences.
Resisting Normative Social Influence What can we do to resist inappropriate normative social influence? 1.Be aware that it is operating. 2.Take action. Try to find an ally. 3.Conforming most of the time earns an occasional deviation without consequences. Idiosyncrasy Credits The tolerance a person earns, over time, by conforming to group norms; if enough idiosyncrasy credits are earned, the person can, on occasion, behave deviantly without retribution from the group. Idiosyncrasy Credits The tolerance a person earns, over time, by conforming to group norms; if enough idiosyncrasy credits are earned, the person can, on occasion, behave deviantly without retribution from the group.
Minority Influence: When the Few Influence the Many Minority Influence The case where a minority of group members influence the behavior or beliefs of the majority. The key is consistency: People with minority views must express the same view over time. Different members of the minority must agree with one another.
Using Social Influence to Promote Beneficial Behavior Robert Cialdini, Raymond Reno, and Carl Kallgren have developed a model of normative conduct in which social norms (the rules that a society has for acceptable behaviors, values, and beliefs) can be used to subtly induce people to conform to correct, socially approved behavior.
Using Social Influence to Promote Beneficial Behavior Cialdini and his colleagues (1991) suggest that first we need to focus on what kind of norm is operating in the situation. Only then can we invoke a form of social influence that will encourage people to conform in socially beneficial ways.
Injunctive Norms People’s perceptions of what behaviors are approved or disapproved of by others. Descriptive Norms People’s perceptions of how people actually behave in given situations, regardless of whether the behavior is approved or disapproved of by others.
The Role of Injunctive and Descriptive Norms Establishing norms can influence littering behavior.
OBEDIENCE TO AUTHORITY Obedience is a social norm that is valued in every culture. You simply can’t have people doing whatever they want all the time—it would result in chaos. Consequently, we are socialized, beginning as children, to obey authority figures whom we perceive as legitimate.
OBEDIENCE TO AUTHORITY We internalize the social norm of obedience such that we usually obey rules and laws even when the authority figure isn’t present—you stop at red lights even if the cops aren’t parked at the corner. However, obedience can have extremely serious and even tragic consequences. People will obey the orders of an authority figure to hurt or even kill other human beings.
OBEDIENCE TO AUTHORITY How can we be sure that the Holocaust, My Lai, and other mass atrocities were not caused solely by evil, psychopathic people but by powerful social forces operating on people of all types? Stanley Milgram (1963, 1974, 1976) decided to find out, in what has become the most famous series of studies in social psychology.
OBEDIENCE TO AUTHORITY Imagine that you were a participant in one of Milgram’s studies. When you arrive at the laboratory, you meet another participant, a 47-year-old, somewhat overweight, pleasant- looking fellow. The experimenter, wearing a white lab coat, explains that one of you will play the role of a teacher and the other a learner. You draw a slip of paper out of a hat and discover that you will be the teacher. Your job is to teach the other participant a list of word pairs (e.g., blue–box, nice–day) and then test him on the list. The experimenter instructs you to deliver an electric shock to the learner whenever he makes a mistake because the purpose of the study is to examine the effects of punishment on learning.
OBEDIENCE TO AUTHORITY Imagine that you were a participant in one of Milgram’s studies. The learner makes many mistakes. The experimenter instructs you to keep shocking the learner. What would you do? And how many people do you think would continue to obey the experimenter and increase the levels of shock until they had delivered the maximum amount, 450 volts? Psychology majors at Yale University estimated that only about 1% of the population would go to this extreme. A sample of middle-class adults and a panel of psychiatrists made similar predictions.
OBEDIENCE TO AUTHORITY Most of Milgram’s participants succumbed to the pressure of an authority figure. The average maximum shock delivered was 360 volts, and 62.5% of the participants went all the way, delivering the 450-volt shock. A full 80 percent of the participants continued giving the shocks even after the learner cried out seemingly in pain, saying his heart was bothering him. Note: No learners were harmed in the making of Milgram’s experiments. The learner was a confederate working with Milgram, only pretending to get shocked.
The Role of Normative Social Influence The obedience experiment was a confusing situation for participants, with competing, ambiguous demands. Unclear about how to define what was going on, they followed the orders of the expert, the authority figure.
Other Reasons We Obey Participants conformed to the wrong norm: They continued to follow the “obey authority” norm when it was no longer appropriate. It was difficult for them to abandon this norm for three reasons: 1.The fast-paced nature of the experiment, 2.The fact that the shock levels increased in small increments, 3.Their loss of a feeling of personal responsibility.
Social Psychology Elliot Aronson University of California, Santa Cruz Timothy D. Wilson University of Virginia Robin M. Akert Wellesley College slides by Travis Langley Henderson State University 6th edition