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Social Norm #3. By: Sara Nur and Samantha Bender. Evaluate research on conformity to group norms. . Evaluate. Make an appraisal by weighing up the strengths and limitations. Research.

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social norm 3

Social Norm #3

By: Sara Nur


Samantha Bender


Make an appraisal by weighing up the strengths and limitations.


Studious inquiry or examination; especially: investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws

The collecting of information about a particular subject


Correspondence in form, manner, or character : agreement <behaved in conformity with her beliefs>

An act or instance of conforming

Action in accordance with some specified standard or authority <conformity to social custom>

Conformity can be defined as changing behavior as a result of group pressures even though no direct request has been made to comply with the group.

group norm
Group Norm

Associated with social norm

Implicit rules specifying what behaviors are acceptable within a society or group

research 1 milgram s obedience experiment
Research #1: Milgram’s Obedience Experiment
  • Aim: to investigate what level of obedience would be shown when participants were told by an authority figure to administer electric shocks to another person
  • Method: ZAP!!!
  • Results:
    • All went to 300 volts
    • 65% went to 450 volts
    • 35% stopped before
  • Conclusion:
    • Under certain circumstances, most people will obey orders that go against their conscience.
    • When people occupy a subordinate position in a dominance hierarchy, they become liable to lose feelings of empathy, compassion and morality, and are inclined towards blind obedience.
    • Atrocities such as those carried out in WWII may be largely explained in terms of pressures to obey a powerful authority.

The Milgram Experiment raised questions about the research ethics of scientific experimentation because of the extreme emotional stress and inflicted insight suffered by the participants. In Milgram's defense, 84 percent of former participants surveyed later said they were "glad" or "very glad" to have participated, 15 percent chose neutral responses (92% of all former participants responding).Many later wrote expressing thanks. Milgram repeatedly received offers of assistance and requests to join his staff from former participants

This experiment may have raised questions on ethics but it also helped the people who took part empathize with people who blindly follow orders. The ethics of the experiment may have been limitations but the experiment’s ability to help people empathize was a major success.

research 2 asch s conformity experiment
Research #2: Asch’s Conformity Experiment
  • Aim: to investigate the extent to which social pressure from a majority group could affect a person to conform.
  • Method: LINES!!!
  • Results:
    • 24% did not conform at all
    • 75% conformed at least once
    • 5% conformed every time
  • Conclusion: The results show that when in an ambiguous situation, a person will look to others who know more / better)for guidance (i.e. adopt the group norm).  They want to do the right thing but may lack the appropriate information. Observing others can provide this information.  This is known as informational conformity.

All participants were male students who all belonged to the same age group (biased sample).  The task (judging line lengths) was artificial (low in ecological validity) as it is unlikely to happen in everyday life. Therefore, it is not similar to a real life situation demonstrating conformity. 

Finally, there are ethical issues: participants were not protected from psychological stress which may occur if they disagreed with the majority.  Asch deceived the student volunteers claiming they were taking part in a 'vision' test; the real purpose was to see how the 'naive' participant would react to the behavior of the confederates.

The Asch (1951) study has also been called a child of its time (as conformity was the social norm in 1950’s America). The era of individualism, ‘doing your own thing’, did not take hold until the 1960s.

Perrin and Spencer (1980) carried out an exact replication of the original Asch experiment using engineering, mathematics and chemistry students as participants.  The results were clear cut: on only one out of 396 trials did a participant conform with the incorrect majority.  This shows the Asch experiment has poor reliability. 

research 3 stanford prison experiment
Research #3: Stanford Prison Experiment
  • Aim: The aim of the study was to investigate the effects of being assigned to the role of either a prison guard or prisoner.
  • Method: Prison
  • Results:
    • The ‘prisoners’ were effect by their role and the ‘guards’
    • Ended 6 days before the end: 5 prisoners left earlier because of extreme emotional depression
    • Outcomes were negative for bother the ‘guards’ and ‘prisoners’
  • Conclusion: each participant acted the way that they thought that they were expected to act. The guards took it to the extreme which caused the prisoners to become emotionally distressed

The ethics of the Stanford Prison Experiment have long been called into question, and, certainly, without stricter controls this experiment would not be sanctioned today; it could pose a genuine risk to people disposed towards mental and emotional imbalances.

Other criticisms include the validity of the results. It was a field experiment, rather than a scientific experiment, so there are only observational results and no scientific evaluation.

They also have rigid protocols to which they are supposed to stick. In addition, the study studied only male subjects and most western prisons do have a mix of sexes on the guard staff.

Not many successes in the experiment as the person conducting the study himself was too enveloped in the experiment

research 4 crutchfield s conformity experiment
Research #4: Crutchfield’s Conformity Experiment
  • Aim: Observe the effect on private to public conformity
  • Method: Participants placed in booths of their own in a private atmosphere . Then they were asked to agree and disagree. They were aware of answer of others too – after they had been manipulated by the experimenter
  • Results: Conformity changed depending on task
  • Conclusion: Conformity varied depending on the task. This suggests that difficulty was a factor, regardless whether it is public or private.
  • Social Norms:
    • Behavior within society
    • What we follow.
    • Patterns of behavior of certain group
  • Only middle aged men participated in the experiment 100 participants
  • Reasons for conformity he came up with cannot really be supported with empirical evidence
  • The experiment was not done with a random sample, people from different cultures should participate since culture plays a significant role in shaping individuals.

Informational influence : Behavior of others might convince us that our original judgment was incorrect. The group's behavior provides valuable info about what is expected.

Wish to avoid punishment (such as rejection or ridicule) or gain rewards. We are concerned about our social image and outcomes.

 Groups create barriers to independent behavior.

Risk of disapproval from other group members: By deviating too far, individuals risk rejection.

Lack of perceived alternatives. A member may not realize he has any other choice but conformity. (In Milgram experiments, subjects were told they had no other choice.)


Fear of disrupting the group's operations. People fear independence will hamper the attainment of group goals.

Absence of communication among group members. Lacking information that others might join in the nonconforming action, they avoid going out on a limb.

No feeling of responsibility for group outcomes. Members who conform may cause a group to fail to meet its objectives. They hesitate to take the initiative to turn the situation around, especially if they do not feel personally responsible for the group's success or failure.

A sense of powerlessness. If a person feels that he cannot change the situation, he is unlikely to try anything new. The apathy becomes self-fulfilling. No one tries anything different, and consequently, nothing improves.