Sociocultural Level of Analysis: Social and Cultural Norms Part III Social Influence: Conformity • Conformity – an indirect social influence, people tend to adjust their thoughts, feelings, or behavior that are in agreement with those of a individual or particular group, or with accepted standards about how a person should behave in specific situations (special norms). • The term “peer pressure” is used to describe the conformity seen in schools, but conformity occurs at all levels of society and it is not always simply about the need to sit in with a group of friends at school. Social Influence: Conformity • Solomon Asch (1951) - Asch Paradigm – The participants — the real subjects and the confederates (part of the study, unknown to real subjects) — were all seated in a classroom. They were asked a variety of questions about the lines such as how long is A, compare the length of A to an everyday object, which line was longer than the other, which lines were the same length, etc. – The group was told to announce their answers to each question out loud. The confederates always provided their answers before the study participant, and always gave the same answer as each other. They answered a few questions correctly but eventually began providing incorrect responses. Social Influence: Conformity • Solomon Asch (1951) - Asch Paradigm – In a control group, with no pressure to conform to an erroneous view, only 1 subject out of 35 ever gave an incorrect answer. – Asch hypothesized that the majority of people would not conform to something obviously wrong. – When surrounded by individuals all voicing an incorrect answer, participants provided incorrect responses on a high proportion of the questions, 32% agreed with incorrect responses in half or more of the trials. – 24% of the participants did not conform to any of the incorrect responses given by confederates. – 75% of the participants agreed with the confederates and gave an incorrect answer to at least one question. Social Influence: Conformity • Solomon Asch (1951) - Asch Paradigm – As long as the dissenting confederate gives an answer that is different from the majority, participants are more likely to give the correct answer. – One difference between the Asch conformity experiments and the Milgram experiment is that the subjects of these studies attributed their performance to their own misjudgment and "poor eyesight", while those in the Milgram experiment blamed the experimenter in explaining their behavior. Social Influence: Conformity • The Asch paradigm has been replicated many times. Out of those variations and replications, psychologists have found that the following factors influence the likelihood to conform to the group. – Group size: Asch (1955) found that with only one confederate, just 3% of the participants conformed; with two confederates, it rose to 32%. Larger groups did not increase the rate of conformity. In some cases, very large groups even decreased the level of conformity. Social Influence: Conformity – Unanimity: Conformity was most likely when all the confederated agreed (Asch 1956). If one of the confederates disagreed, even if it was also an incorrect answer, the participant was significantly less likely to conform. – Confidence: When individuals feel that they are more competent to make decisions with regard to a field of expertise, they are less likely to conform. Perrin and Spencer (1988) found that when they replicated Asch’s study with engineers and medical students, conformity rates were almost nil. Social Influence: Conformity – Self-esteem: Stang (1973) found that participants with high self-esteem were less likely to conform to incorrect responses. • Criticism of Asch Paradigm: • Artificiality and ecological validity – do these experiments accurately predict real-life situations? • Culture: in the original study only one culture was studied. Culture changes, the study may not even be valid today. • Ethics: participants deceived, made to feel anxiety about their performance. • Friend et al. (1990): argue there is a bias in interpretation of findings. Claims it should be striking to us that in the face of unanimity so many people did not conform. We should study the factors that allow people to dissent, rather than conform. Social Influence: Conformity • Moscovici argues that when a minority maintains a consistent view, it is able to influence the majority. • Moscovici and Lage (1976), four participants and two confederates described a blue-green color as green. They found that the minority was able to influence about 32% of the participants to make at least one incorrect judgment about the color of slides they were shown. Also the participants continued to give their incorrect responses even after the confederates had left the experiment. Social Influence: Conformity • Hogg and Vaughan (1995) argue that some of the reason for the influence of a minority group could be as follows: – Dissenting opinions produce uncertainty and doubt. – Such opinions show that alternatives exist. – Consistency shows that there is a commitment to the alternative view. Social Influence: Conformity • Minority opinions are essential to a group’s decision making process: otherwise, a group may experience a groupthink. • Groupthink is characterized by group members having a unanimous opinion on an issue, and they do no seek out alternative or dissenting opinions. Often the group is blinded by optimism that their decagons will be successful. Members of a group come to doubt their own reservations and refrain from voicing any dissenting opinions. Social Influence: Conformity • Deutsch and Gerard (1955) argue that conformity is a result of informational social influence and normative social influence. 1. Informational social influence is based on the way people cognitively process information about a situation. • Festinger (1954) said that people evaluate their own opinions and ideas through social comparison, meaning looking at what others do. Social Influence: Conformity • When one notices that others are not behaving in the same way , or that they think differently, it causes anxiety. Festinger called this cognitive dissonance. 2. Normative social influence is based on our nature as social animals. People have a need to be accepted by others and to belong. Social Influence: Conformity • Culture and Conformity: – Studies show Asian cultures engage in more conforming behaviors that Americans do, and they also value it to a greater degree. – Americans see conformity as a negative trait. – Cashmore and Goodnow (1986) found that there was a high level of conformity among Italians. – Burgos and Dias-Perez (1986) found that with regard to childrearing, Puerto Ricans valued conformity and obedience in their children. Social Influence: Conformity • Culture and Conformity – Bond and Smith (1996) study found that individuals from collectivistic cultures (Africa, Asia, South America) tend to conform more than their counterparts from individualistic cultures do (North America and north-west Europe). – Berry (1967) found higher rates of conformity among the Temne of Sierra Leone, a high food-accumulating society with strict disciplinarian socialization practices, compared with the Eskimo of Baflin Island, a low food-accumulating society whose socialization practices are lenient and encourage individualism.