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"To what extend has research supported the view that the Majority exerts a significant degree of influence over the individual".

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Introduction

"To what extend has research supported the view that the Majority exerts a significant degree of influence Over the individual" Conformity is form of social influence which results from exposure to the opinions of a majority. Zimbardo et al (1995) define it as a "tendency for people to adopt the behaviour, attitudes and values of other members of a reference." The two most obvious reasons why people conform are because of 'normative influence' and 'informational influence' an alternative explanation is 'referential social influence'. Minority influence is a form of social influence where people reject the established norm of the majority of group members and move to the position of the minority. There are many situations where social influence where social influence can be attributed to exposure to persuasive influence of a minority position, or even a lone dissenter. Consequently although initially dismissed as eccentric or unacceptable by the majority, the views of the minority may become increasingly influential. In Asch's study, he showed a series of lines to participants seated around a table, all but one were confederates of the researcher. ...read more.

Middle

Strictly speaking, Sherif's experiment is not an example of conformity in terms of majority influence. Majority influence means a majority influences a minority who then conform to the majority view. Therefore this was no majority or minority view, simply a number of people had different views. Sherif (1935) conducted an experiment using a visual illusion called the autokinetic effect, where a stationery spot light seen in a dark room appears to move. He moved the light around and asked participants to estimate how far the light had moved. They were tested individually being asked to estimate the extent of movement several times. The estimates fluctuated but then settled down and became more consistent. There were wide differences between participants. After hearing the estimates of other participants (the group situation) the estimates of different participants converged to form a group norm which represented the average of individual estimates. According to Sherif, the participants used others estimates as a frame of reference in what was an ambiguous situation. When participants were asked to individually make a second estimate their answers closely resembled the norm. ...read more.

Conclusion

Neither choice is inherently good or bad. A person's judgment about the value of conformity or deviance should depend on the reasons a member behaves in this way. For example, a group member may conform simply to do what the group wants. Compliance is usually bad for the group in the sense that the group is not getting the full benefit of hearing and evaluating opposing views. However, there are times, such as in emergencies when quick compliance is necessary. Finally, group members holding a minority viewpoint can influence members in the majority. The type of influence that minorities can exert however is different from the kind that majorities usually exert. Group members who move their opinions toward the majority are often just complying with the majority. In contrast, the influence of minorities tends to lead members toward a public acceptance of the minority point of view. Further, the presence of a minority helps stimulate group members to think deeply about issues. This often leads members to present new proposals and come to higher quality decisions than they would have if the minority viewpoint had not been present. Overall, group majorities tend to have greater influence over members than group minorities do, therefore majority exerts a significant degree of influence over the individual. Aneil Patel Psychology ...read more.

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