Outline and Evaluate research into conformity (12 marks) Conformity is a type of social influence involving a change in belief or behaviour in order to fit in with a group. This change is in response to real (involving the physical presence of others) or imagined (involving the pressure of social norms / expectations) group pressure. The term conformity is often used to indicate an agreement to the majority position, brought about either by a desire to ‘fit in’ (normative) or because of a desire to be correct (informational). In 1935, Sherif conducted an experiment with the aim of demonstrating that people conform to group norms when they are put in an ambiguous situation. He used a lab experiment to study conformity.
Normative social influence refers to instances where someone conforms in order to fit in and gain approval or avoid disapproval from other group members and this leads to conformity. This is known as compliance. Compliance is when an individual is exposed to the views or actions of a majority, they engage in social comparison. Because identifying with a majority is desirable, they change their views/actions to fit in with them. They go along with the majority without analysing why there is a difference.
Benefits come from belonging in a group, individuals may conform on the surface but disagree with the group internally. This is called compliance, going along with the majority despite knowing they are incorrect. Informational social influence; is powered by what people need or their motives. When people are unaware how to behave, think or feel in a social situation the need for conformity is the need to be safe. An example of psychological research in conformity is Asch (1951) line study, where there were varying amount of both participants and confederates and they were asked to state which line was bigger out of three.
On the one hand, people conform because they are members of social groups. On the other hand people can conform not to the others, but to norms. People are used as a source of information about what is appropriate in group behaviour. The influence of other people’s opinion on people became a subject of Shetif’s classic experiment in 1936. In the first stage of the experiment the participants were individually asked if the light in a dark room moved and how far it was.
There are three different situations of presence of other: observation from others, competition with others, and coordination with others (Strauss, 2001). Observation from others is the situation that the outsider acts as an audience who do nothing but watching the individual. Competition with other is the situation that other people do the same thing as the individual doing. Coordination with others is the situation that the individual performs the task together and share the common goal with other people as in a group or team. In recent year, social psychologists and researchers have found that the performance could be affected by the situations and explained by three theories: Social facilitation theory, social facilitation-inhibition theory and social loafing theory.
The concept of Locus of control which was made by Rotter in 1966 refers to individual differences in people’s beliefs and expectations about what controls events in their lives. There are two extremes: internal locus which is the belief that what happens is largely under one’s own control (associated with the belief that one can control much of one’s life and succeed in stressful or difficult situations). The other extreme is external locus which is the belief that what happens to one is controlled by external factors such as luck and fate (associated with the tendency to face stressful situations with a more passive and fatalistic attitude). There are a few studies that have looked at the relationship between locus of control and independent versus obedient behaviour. Holland in 1967 investigated this relationship when he ran various variations of Milgram’s procedure.
Some individuals choose not to discuss bias behaviors for fear their opinion on the matter will be taken out of context or they may have to listen to the same dialogue over and over again. This is due to the differences of opinion of whether bias behaviors continue to exist today or not. Social psychologists have studied bias for several decades and have gained knowledge about subtle and blatant biases, how it affects an individual and developed strategies that can be used to change the behavior, Fiske (2010). The four parts of the core social motives, belonging, self-enhancing, and controlling moves through intergroup biases. According to Fiske (1998), researchers find that every form of bias has a category-based response, as in reacting to other people as though he or she is an interchangeable member of a specific social group.
He coined the term group dynamics to describe the way groups and individuals act and react to changing circumstances. William Schutz (1958, 1966) looked at interpersonal relations from the perspective of three dimensions: Inclusion, control, and affection. This became the basis for a theory of group behavior that see groups as resolving issues in each of these stages in order to be able to develop to the next stage. Conversely, a group may also devolve to an earlier stage if unable to resolve outstanding issues in a particular stage. Wilfred Bion (1961) studied group dynamics from a psychoanalytic perspective.
Conformity is a result of social influence where people adopt the behaviours, attitudes and values of a group, many people feel they are independent, however they are nerveless go along with what the group they hang around with do,(the social norms). Social norms are how we are expected to act, for example say please and thank you. Kelman said that there were three types of conformity; these were compliance, where you publicly conform to the behaviour or views of other, but then privately agree to what you believe, such as if you agree in smoking, you could publicly agree but then privately disagree. Identification is where you take on other views and behaviours of a group both publicly and privately because you want to be part of the group. However these views are not always long term and if the person left the group their behaviour and views might go back to how they were before and internalization, this is where the person values and behaviours have changed for long term, for example religion.
Another aspect the theory focuses on is positive and negative reinforcement. Skinner investigated negative and positive reinforcement and how it influenced the behaviour of an individual to do a certain thing. Social Learning - The second theory is the social learning theory. This theory is based on how we learn from a social setting, that we are influenced by the people around us e.g: our peers, family, friends, siblings etc. Bandura believes that every individual has a desire to fit in and be accepted; the individual will change their behaviour, beliefs and views publicly in order to fit the norms of a particular group, although privately, they are unchanged.