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Briefly outline findings from studies of majority influence (conformity) and consider the value of such studies.

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Psychology Essay Lorraine Yates 'Most studies of majority influence (conformity) have been carried out in labs and thus might not tell us much about the way people conform in the real world.' Briefly outline findings from studies of majority influence (conformity) and consider the value of such studies. Conformity or majority influence as it can also be called is a form of social influence where people adopt the behaviours, attitudes and values of other members of a group. Crutchfield and Zimbardo both set out to study the issue of majority influence. However, they both had different methods of doing so and both came out with different findings. Crutchfield used an efficient and ethical study; it was much more practical because more participants could be tested quickly on a large variety of tasks Studying conformity in private meant that the study was more ethical because they were not put in an embarrassing situation. Although, like in all studies the participants were deceived as to the purpose of the study. After testing 600 participants, in a 3day assessment programme, these were Crutchfields findings; * Participants were asked to compare the size of a circle and a star, the circle being much larger of the 2. ...read more.


Crutchfields study also provides an insight into the effect of personality on conformity however, Crutchfield did find that there was a lack of evidence to suggest that there was a 'conforming personality'. Yet, Crutchfield found that participants with a high score in intelligence and leadership ability displayed less conformity. Is this because they aren't intimidated by the lab surroundings or because they are happy with their answers and believe what they say is right? Another psychologist who studied conformity was Zimbardo. Zimbardo set out to study whether people conform to the influence of social roles. He did this by setting up a mock prison in the basement of Stanford University. There were 3 main cells, a solitary confinement cell and an observation room for the guards. He then asked for volunteers (all male) to act as prisoners or guards. The prisoners were arrested in their own homes, handcuffed and blindfolded then transported to the mock prison. Over a period of 6days the study became out of control and had to be terminated. ...read more.


These roles shaped their attitudes and behaviour. In comparison to Crutchfields study, Zimbardo made his study relate more to the real world as being arrested and imprisoned, whether guilty or not, could happen to anybody. There is lack of personality shown in this study because the participants are conforming to a different social role meaning they act out of character to conform and be like the person they are expected to 'play'. Another important factor is also that the 'prisoners' showed obedience to authority. They only rebelled once and then began to conform. They stopped fighting back and did as they were told to do. Even if it meant cleaning the toilets with their bare hands, as some were forced to do by the acting guards. In conclusion to these studies, we know that the ecological validity wasn't very good however we realise that the participants have to give informed consent to the study as psychologists would have to stalk their unknowing participants to be able to watch their behavioural patterns to some extent. There is a limit on how far psychologists can go to study the general public as there are privacy issues surrounding these studies. ...read more.

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