Conformity Lesson 1

Lesson 1
Summary Questions
What is meant by social facilitation?
Give an example of a dominant response?
According to arousal theory, why does
performance of a simple task in the
presence of others result in facilitation?
Exam Questions
What is meant by a dominant response?
(2 marks)
Studies of social facilitation in animals can be
explained by some theories but not by
others. Identify one theory that can explain
the effect and one that cannot. Explain your
(4 marks)
Simon has just started to practice gymnastics at a
local club. Two days ago he took part in his first
competition. There was a large, noisy audience
present and halfway through his performance, Simon
forgot his routine.
With reference to the information above, briefly
discuss two psychological explanations for Simon’s
poor performance in the competition.
How many beans in this jar?
What influences you?
Conformity is a form of social influence
where group pressure, real or imagined,
results in a change in behaviour.
Jenness (1932)
The first informal experimental study of
conformity where participants were asked to
estimate how many beans the bottle
contained. When asked for a group estimate
they almost all changed their individual
guesses closer to the group estimate. This
persisted when asked again individually.
They conformed.
Research Study: Sherif (1935)
Aim: Sherif wanted to investigate if people conform to group norms when they
are in an ambiguous situation.
Method: In this experiment a single point of light in a dark room seems to move
as there is no point of reference (the autokinetic effect) but actually the light is
perfectly still.
Sherif put participants into the darkened room. He told them that a light would
appear in front of them for almost an instant and then be extinguished. Then
another light would appear and then be extinguished. He asked them to tell
him how far the light had moved. However, the light had not moved at all, but
because the participants had been asked the specific question “how far…” they
assumed it had and gave a distance. It was found that individuals on their own
in the room gave estimates about how much the light moved from about 2030cms or 60-80cms. The influence of group norms was investigated by Sherif
putting three people in a room together. Sherif manipulated the composition of
the group by putting together two people whose estimate of the light movement
when they were alone was very similar and then one person whose estimate
was very different. Each person in the room had to say aloud their estimate
with the participant who had previously given the most different estimate last to
speak aloud their answer..
Methodological Issues
Sherif found that over numerous estimates of
the movement of the light, the group would
almost certainly converge. The person
whose estimate was very different from the
other two would conform to the other two in
the group.
The significant difference between Jenness and Sherif’s study
is that Jenness requested a ‘group answer’ whereas Sherif did
The group size only included three people – some would argue
this really isn’t a group.
Ambiguous situation – there was no right or wrong answer –
makes it difficult to draw conclusions about conformity, i.e. what
would they do in an unambiguous situation?
Also the fact Sherif said he would move the light was a leading
question so they thought the light moved which is why they
gave that answer.
Any other methodological problems of laboratory experiments.
Ethical considerations of deception, protection from harm,
consent are especially easy to use here.