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Conformity Conformity is when a person alters their behaviour so that it is similar to that of other people. There are two motives for conformity (also known as majority social influence): Normative social influence: emulating the behaviour of others to fit into a group. People may conform if they want people to like them. Informational social influence: emulating the behaviour of others in an attempt to be right. Conformity Studies
Muzafer Sherif used the auto kinetic effect (an optical illusion, in which a small point of light appears to move around when shone on a wall in a dark room) in his conformity study (this is an ambiguous stimulus). When the participants were asked individually how far they thought the light moved; the answers given varied greatly (from 2 to 25cm). Participants were then put into groups of three and gave an answer In front of the other two in a series of identical tests, each time the participants were asked the answers given converged into a group norm.
Afterwards the participants were tested individually again and their answers stayed close to the group norm, when asked whether they were influenced by the estimates of others the participants said that they did not feel that they had altered their estimates to fit in with others at all. Solomon Asch criticised Sherif’s experiment citing that there was no definite answer, and wanted to find out how likely people were to conform when the answer was obvious. Asch’s conformity experiments were a series of studies that starkly demonstrated the power of conformity in groups.
Asch used cards similar to those above in his research. Asch asked students to participate in a test of visual perception. In fact, all but one of the participants was a confederate of Asch, and the study was really about how the remaining student would react to the confederates’ behaviour. The participants asked to answer questions on the length of several lines drawn on a series of cards. They were questioned about the length of the lines. The confederates had been briefed to all give incorrect answers in the tests. 33% of participants conformed to the incorrect majority view (group norm) of the others in the room.
When the confederates were not unanimous in their judgment, participants were much less likely to conform than when the confederates all agreed, even when the confederate gave an answer that was obviously wrong. A control group who were asked on their own with no other participants gave all the correct answers. Jenness asked students how many beans they thought were in a jar. He recorded their responses and then allowed the students to confer amongst themselves. The students were then asked again about the quantity of beans and Jenness found that the given estimates converged between the first and second answers into a group norm.
These three studies appear to show the effects of informational social influence. Research Aims and Hypothesis Aims In this research I aim to discover if or how often people will conform to other (fake) answers when asked to estimate how many rubber bands (the ambiguous stimulus) are contained within a transparent plastic container in an opportunity study. Hypothesis My hypothesis is that people who are given a sheets with higher guesses on it will give higher estimates than the people who had the sheets with lower guesses on due to the effects of informational social influence.
I think that the ambiguity of the task group for the participants will affect the degree with which they conform e. g. if I used ten grains of rice, conformity would be much lower than if I used one million, this would be difficult to prove, however. Since participants would be using their own judgement on a small quantity, answers would be close, but not due to conformity. Even if conformity was the cause, I would not be able to tell from asking the participants; in Sherif’s study participants did not feel influenced by other participants even though they did conform.
I predict a higher mean for the group given the higher sheets, a lower mean for the group given the lower sheets and the mean for the controls to be in between the two. I predict that the range for the high and low groups will be about the same, but that control group will have a significantly larger range than either of them. Method Design My study is an experiment; I am using this type of research because I want to experience first hand what effect certain elements have on the results of the study.
Because this is an experiment, there will several types of variables present (participant variables will also be present, but those are unavoidable). The independent variables in this study are the guesses written on the sheets before they are given to the participants. The dependant variables in this study are the guesses written on the sheets by the participants. Situational Variables To avoid other factors affecting my results I need to eliminate these situational variables as far as possible. Location
Because I am using an opportunity sample, the location is likely to vary, therefore I will always ask people in a location with similar qualities. Distractions I will need to find a quiet area in order to prevent participants from being distracted. If participants are distracted, they may just put any answer down, without giving their answer as much consideration as they would in a quiet environment. Other people Other people may act as a distraction, or the participant may conform with them instead of the guesses on the sheet. Standardisation
To succeed in eliminating the situational variables I need to standardise the experiment. 1 Give written instructions 2 Ask participants alone in a quiet room 3 Give participants a standard time looking at the container Participants I will use an opportunity sample in my study, this means that participants will be gained as and when I can find them, or when I have the opportunity to test them. I will use 30 participants, all students or lecturers (Lecturers and students in my psychology group were only used as controls) at Worcester College of Technology. Materials I will use: A pen A transparent container full of rubber bands
20 sheets (10 with high guesses on that will be given to the High group, and 10 with low guesses on that will be given to the Low group) The high sheets will have these numbers on: 700, 670, 800, 731, 950, 825. The low sheets will have these numbers on: 400, 470, 550, 342, 535, 380. Procedure 1. I will ask people that I see at college individually if they will guess how many rubber bands are in a container. 2. I will ask them to look at the rubber bands and then to write down an estimate of how many there are on a piece of paper. The control group will not be shown any other estimates.
The piece of paper will have one of two groups of fake answers already written on it, although the participants will not be told this. One paper will have high answers written on it (given to the high group) and the other low answers (given to the low group). 3. Once I have collected my data I will present it in a graph/table. Ethical Considerations In this experiment consent will be gained from any participants, however, it is not fully informed consent, as the participants will not be told that this is a study into conformity and that the guesses that they see on the paper are not genuine, this is deception and therefore not ethical.
This is unavoidable without explaining that this is an experiment into conformity, potentially altering their behaviour, therefore defeating the entire object of the study. To make my study as ethical as possible, I will fully inform participants of what I have done, and why I have done it once they have given their estimates in a process called debriefing. I will then ask their permission to use their data in my study, if that permission is refused, then their data will be omitted from the study.