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Conformity (Majority Influence)

“A change in behaviour due to real or imagined pressure from other people”

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Asch (1951)

  • A research study of conformity to group pressure

    • Will someone go along with an answer that is obviously wrong?

    • What is more important – being right or fitting in?

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Asch (1951)

  • When all the confederates gave the right answer, the PPs made almost no errors

  • When the confeds gave the wrong answer, the PP went along with it 37% of the time

  • Of the PPs:

    • 75% conformed at least once

    • 5% conformed every time

    • 25% never conformed

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Why would someone go along with an answer they knew to be wrong?

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Asch (1951)

  • PPs reported conforming for different reasons including:

    • Genuinely doubted own judgement

    • Didn’t want to ‘upset the experiment’

    • Fear of rejection by confeds

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Factors that Affect Conformity

  • Size of majority?

    • Not particularly important above 3 people

  • Unanimity of majority?

    • More important – dissent reduces conformity

  • Difficulty/ambiguity of situation?

    • More ambiguity gives higher conformity

  • Relative status of majority?

    • Higher status leads to greater conformity

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Other Studies of Conformity

  • Situations where there is no clear cut right answer

    • Jenness (1932) – estimating the number of beans in a jar

    • Sherif (1935) – estimating how far a light appeared to move

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Conformity Processes

  • Informational Influence

    • Motivated by desire to be correct

  • Normative Influence

    • Motivated by need to fit in with group

  • Leading to:

    • Compliance

    • Internalisation

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Informational influence

Motivated by a desire to be correct

Need for certainty

Subjective uncertainty

Need for information

Private beliefs are likely

to change along with

public behaviour

Refer to social group

Conformity Processes


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Normative influence

Motivated by a desire to be accepted

Power of social group to reward or punish

Need for acceptance or approval

Public behaviour is

likely to diverge

from private beliefs

Conflict between self & group opinion/behaviour

Conformity Processes


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