Compare and Contrast the Processes Involved in Majority and Minority Social Influence.

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Compare and Contrast the Processes Involved in Majority and Minority Social Influence.

An important type of social influence is conformity. Conformity occurs when someone voluntarily performs an act because others are doing it. That is, by conforming, someone is acting at odds with one's beliefs or perceptions because other people are acting in that way. From this stems two opposing views of influence, majority and minority influence.

The brilliant series of experiments carried out by Solomon Asch (1952) is a great example of majority influence. Asch was not the first investigator to study conformity, but his approach was the most direct and dramatic. He reasons that perhaps conformity occurred in only rather ambiguous situations, when people were quite uncertain about the correct standard of behaviour was. He thought that if the stimulus situation was clear, there would be little or no conformity as people would trust their own perceptions and remain independent.

Five students arrived to take part in a study of perception. They sat around a table and were told they would be judging the lengths of lines. They were shown a white card on which three black lines of varying lengths had been drawn and a second card containing one line. Their task was to choose the line of the first card that was most similar in length to the line on the second. One of the lines was exactly the same length as the standard, whereas the other two were quite different from it. When the lines were shown, the subjects in turn answered aloud in the order in which they were seated. Since the judgement was so easy, there were no disagreements. A second set of cards were shown, responses were given and a third set was produced.

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At this point, the experiment really started. The first four subjects gave the wrong answer. When it was time for the fifth subject to respond, he was quite disturbed. He was confused as he didn't know whether to trust his own judgements or go with the majority.

Under these circumstances a third of people sitting in the fifth position gave the wrong answer. They agreed with the others even though they knew it was incorrect. This error rate takes on significance when we realise that other subjects tested alone on the same stimuli get the answers right on all but ...

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