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Conformity And Minor Influence

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Module 3

Social Psychology - Conformity & Minor Influence

Definition of Conformity

Crutchfield defined conformity as "yielding to group pressure".

Aronson defined conformity as "a change in a person's behaviour or opinions as a result of real or imagined pressure from a person or group of people.

Why do People conform?


because they lack information or do not know the answer. People assume that others probably know more than the do. This may apply to the Jenness and Sherif studies.


people want to be accepted as part of the group, don't want to be different. This may apply to the Asch studies.

Types of conformity

Kelman believed there were three types of conformity:


go along even though you don't change your mind, believe the group to be wrong but still conform.


because they become persuaded that the group is right, they change their opinion not just their behaviour.


because everyone else is, these people don't think, typical of younger teenagers.

Jenness 1932

Jenness was the first person to study conformity, his experiment involved a glass bottle filled with beans. He asked people individually to estimate how many beans the bottle contained, then put the group in a room with the bottle, and asked them to provide a group estimate.

He then interviewed the subjects individually again, and asked if they would like to change their original estimates, or stay with the group's estimate. Almost all changed their individual guesses to be closer to the group estimate.

Sherif 1935

Sherif carried out an Autokinetic study. He put subjects in a room which would soon be darkened. He told them that a light would appear in front of them for an instant, then be extinguished then another light would appear and also be extinguished. He asked them to tell him how far the light had moved. The light had not moved at all, but because the subjects had been asked the specific question "how far...?" they assumed that it had, and gave a distance.

Sherif then conducted the same study with the whole group of subjects in the room, and asked each in turn the distance they thought the light had moved. He discovered that whatever answer the first person provided, the rest would all be very close, regardless of their individual assessment the first time round.

The significant difference between the Jenness and Sherif studies, is that Jenness requested a group answer, whereas Sherif never did.

Asch 1950's

Asch studied a group of six subjects (now called participants, due to political correctness). He projected a straight line onto a screen, then a group of three lines of differing lengths: A, B and C, where B was exactly the same size as the original line, but A and C were very obviously different lengths. He then asked which line was nearer to the first in length.

Only one of the group of six was a real subject, the other five being associates of Asch. The real subject was second to last to be asked, and the four preceding gave false answers (e.g. "A"). The subject would generally follow the answer the other "subjects" had given, even if plainly incorrect.

This did not happen every time, but 74% went along with what the group said at least once, producing a level of 32% conformity. When debriefing the actual subjects, they said they knew the answer they were giving was wrong, but they still followed the group.

Asch carried out this study in many ways, varying the numbers of subjects and position of the real subject in the line up with differing results.

* If the subject was asked last, it made them suspicious.

* If the subject was near the beginning, they were less likely to conform as there were too few to conform to.

* If the size of the group was increased, the level of conformity still remained at 32%.

* With only two subjects, if the first one gave the correct answer, then the second would also give the correct answer, dropping the level of conformity to 5%.

Crutchfield 1954

Crutchfield was aware of the studies that Asch had carried out and wanted to improve them by making a few significant changes. He primarily wanted to test a much larger quantity of subjects, and doing this the way Asch had (one real subject per test) would be too time consuming, so he developed a way to test large numbers of subjects at once.

The test room was set up with many cubicles lining the edges so that when the subjects were in place they could not see or be seen by the other subjects. The experiment was to see if people would conform less if they were not face to face with the rest of the group.

A screen and buttons were placed in each booth, a picture would appear on the screen, be removed and other images appear. The subjects were asked to select which following image was the same as the first, and press the corresponding button. Each screen had a number, and each person would be asked numerically to select their choice, while the results of the selection were shown in all booths.

The twist here, is that all booths were number six, and all other answers were dummies. This eliminated the need for dummy subjects, as each subject was effectively giving an individual response.

Crutchfield carried this study out with varying inputs: Asch's lines, stars, pictures etc. The results of this study showed that conformity levels rose to 50% instead of down as Crutchfield had expected.

Unfortunately the study is invalid, as Crutchfield sourced all his subjects from military bases, and military personnel are trained to conform!

When the test



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