Social Psychology Experiments

Important Social Psychology
Research Overview
Conformity and Social Influence
 What
is conformity?
 Conformity
is a process of changing
behavior due to the influence of others.
What kinds of influences are there?
Informational social influence- we conform because
we assume others know more than we do and
conform to their behavior(s)
Normative social influence- we conform because we
want to fit in and to gain approval
Informational social influence…
 Imagine-
You are attending a social event.
You are in a discussion with a doctor,
lawyer, politician, and a priest. (I promise,
this is not a set-up for a joke!) The doctor
discusses a current medical procedure
that you read an article about just recently.
You didn’t think that he explained it the
way you remember it. What do you do?
Or also consider this scenario…
 You
were sitting in a food court at a local
mall when a man in what you think was a
red shirt and blue jeans stole a woman’s
purse. When the police ask you and other
witnesses what you saw. A few of the
other witnesses assuredly note the man
was wearing a blue shirt. What do you
When does informational social
influence occur?
 When
the situation is unclear. One is
not sure of what to do next.
 If one perceives another as an expert or
possessing more information.
 In cases of crisis when there is no time
to think thoroughly. (Look to an authority
when one is available.)
Normative social influence…
Imagine this scenario:
You have been hired to a new job and you are
attending an important department meeting. The
business manager and others excitedly agree with
a new strategy to bring up productivity. Your
previous company went bankrupt using the same
strategy. You want to be successful at this new
job, but you would like to see the company
succeed. You also would like to keep eating dailyyou need a paycheck for that! Do you speak out?
When does normative social
influence occur?
 When
we are seeking approval and
wish to fit in, we might conform. Even if
we don’t know or don’t want to know
those around us, we might conform to
not seem foolish or different.
Don’t we value individuality as
Yes, but…
Our need to be part of a group is strong; we are
social individuals.
“Interdependence is and ought to be as much the
ideal of man as self-sufficiency. Man is a social
being.” -Mahatma Gandhi
Individuality is valued only in certain situations.
Conformity is often valued and rewarded over
Solomon Asch
Experiment- conformity
 Groups of 7-9 people, only 1 was the real subject
(others were confederates)
 Control condition- subjects judged privately rather
than publicly
 Task was to compare a standard line to 3 comparison
 Control made errors less than 5% of the time
 Experimental group conformed to confederate
answers about 33% of the time; 75% subjects
conformed at least once.
Solomon Asch, continued
 Factors
 Size
affecting conformity:
of group in majority
 Unanimity
 Presence of social supporter or extreme
 Level of privacy
 Collectivism vs. individualism
Stanley Milgram
 Experiment-
obedience to authority
 Multiple real life examples of “just
following orders” such as Eichmann in
Nazi Germany, etc.
 Question: Are people born evil or does
the presence of an authority and orders
create obedience to authority
Milgram- Obedience experiment
Participants thought they were in a study of
the effects of punishment on learning
 “Learner” was a confederate, “teacher” was
the actual subject
 When the learner (who intentionally was
making mistakes) made a mistake, the
experimenter directed the teacher to
administer an electric shock to the
learner, increasing in voltage as they
continued to make mistakes.
Milgram experiment, continued
Factors affecting obedience:
Authority figure present in room; prestigious
university, lab coat
Experimenter kept stating that it was necessary to
Experimenter noted that the shocks may be
painful but there will be no permanent damage
Learner began to say that they did not wish to go
on and their heart was hurting. Experimenter
asked subject to keep going.
Over 2/3 of the subjects continued on past 195
volts, and over half went all of the way to 450 volts
View a video about the Milgram and
Asch experiments here:
Darley and Latane
Bystander effect- reluctance on the part of an
individual to help others if other people are
Experiment comprised of a subject with
confederates that were in a waiting room. Those
in the “with others” condition did not respond as
quickly to the smoke in the room for help,
compared to the “alone” condition in which the
subjects were more willing to go for help. The
presence of an authority figure increased
bystander effect.
Phillip Zimbardo
Stanford Prison Experiment
1971- Experiment dealing with effects of prison life
and abuse of power by guards
Men in the Palo Alto, CA area recruited; subjects
were randomly assigned to be either “guards” or
Although pre-screening did not indicate any
abnormalities, many “inmates” had evidence of
pathology and many “guards” had evidence of
Stanford Prison Experiment
 View
slideshow at:
Robert Cialdini- Principles of
Social Influence
Reciprocation- norm to return behavior received from
Social Validation- use the beliefs and actions of
others as a standard of comparison
Ex. Free samples at the grocery store
You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours
Ex. Should I return a lost wallet with $50 in it?
Festinger- Social comparison theory
Consistency- after committing to a position, you will
be more willing to comply with consistent behaviors.
Ex. Foot-in-the-door phenomenon
Low-ball technique
Robert Cialdini- Principles of
Social Influence
Friendship/ Liking- we are more likely to
comply to requests of people we like
Ex. Tupperware party
Scarcity- value in products/ services with
limited availability
 Authority- we are more willing to follow the
suggestions of a legitimate authority
Medical authority endorsing a product
Importance/ symbolism of the uniform
Irving Janis
 Janis
coined the term groupthink.
 Groupthink- when group conformity
overrides critical thinking
 Factors influencing groupthink:
 Situational
 Style of leadership
 High group cohesiveness
 Group polarization (ex. risky shift)
Classic examples of groupthink
 Holocaust
 Bay
of Pigs invasion
 Challenger explosion
 Watergate scandal
 Lack of preparation for Pearl Harbor
 Joining the war against terror?