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Conformity in psychology.

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Leighton Camara-Roberts Pluto 12 Psychology Assignment 1 CONFORMITY Psychologists have long been interested in the area of social psychology that shows the extent of human conformity, proving that we are not designed as solitary creatures but our very own characters are determined by our social influences. Sherif headed a study into conformity, using the auto-kinetic effect, (which by means of small movements in our eyes causes a beam of light in a dark room appear to move). He asked participants to estimate how far and in what direction the light moved, therefore creating their own personal norm, because they are relying on their own judgement. Each person's norm was very different to the next person. Sherif then placed three different participants with very different personal norms into a group, and after discussing and sharing their opinions, it was found that they become very similar in their opinion because their personal norm was replaced by a group norm, which is a strong indication of social influence. Interestingly, it was found that in general their group norm roughly averaged out at the mean of the personal norms. Furthering his study, Sherif found that commencing the experiment with groups of 3 and then asking the participants for their own estimate showed evidence of group conformity. ...read more.


Amongst the findings, we saw that college students agreed with silly statements which given a different circumstance would have answered very differently. The two studies we have looked at show two different types of influence, informational and normative. Deutsch and Gerard defined the two in this way: Informational social influence: conformity due to the apparent superior knowledge and judgement of others, shown by Sherif's study. People change their opinion because of a number of different reasons including status and roles and familiarity. Informational influence leads usually to internalisation, where what a person believes actually changes. Normative social influence: conformity due to the want to be liked and accepted by others, as shown by Asch's experiment. Normative does not change private opinion; it affects public opinion because of compliance, where people, even though they don't believe in it, comply for the above reason of wanting to be accepted. Zimbardo studied social roles and the idea of identification or group membership. He investigated whether people conform to their expected roles in society 9 or their 'uniform'. Zimbardo found some emotionally stable participants to act as prisoners and guards for his mock prison, to see whether the hostility found in prisons at that time would be found in his prison. ...read more.


An explanation for both minority and majority influence may be social impact theory. This theory states that an individual's behaviour can be predicted in terms of three factors: strength, status and knowledge and immediacy. Strength means the amount of people who are present, which can have an effect on the rate of conformity and also the consistency of the message. People are more influenced if you are of a high status; you need few people of great status to make an impact compared to the amount of low status individuals. Also if you are a professional then you have more of an impact that an amateur. The closer the source of influence is to you and you're heart the more likely you are to believe them, and also physically, if you see the person influencing you, you are more likely to conform. How do you reduce conformity behaviour? Asch found two ways of reducing it. Firstly, by introducing a dissenter into the group. This reduced levels of conformity to only 5%. Secondly, by reducing the number of people with a different answer to you. It is easier not to conform in a small group than it is to a large one. ...read more.

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