Conformity & Asch Experiment

Definition

It is the degree to which members of a group will change their views & attitudes to fit within the group. Members can be influenced by the group via methods which are unconscious in nature or through overt social pressure on individuals.

A change in behavior or belief due to real or “imagined” group pressure.

  • It not only refers to acting like others, but also being affected by the way they act.
  • You “consciously” act in a different way from the way you would act along.

Types of Conformity

There are mainly two types of Conformity:

1. Compliance -Involves publicly acting in accord with social pressure while privately disagreeing.

  • Why do we do this?
  • We comply to receive a reward or to avoid a punishment.

2. Acceptance – Involves both acting and believing in accord with social pressure

  • Example: we may decide not to drink alcohol because our society adopts a strong moral view against drinking.

 

Experiment by Solomon Asch on Social Pressure and Perception

Experiment by Solomon AschAsch Experiment

  • Asch’s experiment showed bars as shown in the Figure, to the college students in groups of 8-10.
  • He informed them that he is studying visual perception and assigned them the task of identifying which of the bars on the right was the same length as the one on the left.
  • As we see, the task is simple and obvious .
  • Asch asked the students to give their answers aloud.
  • He repeated this procedure with 18 sets of bars.
  • Only one student was a real subject in each of the given groups.
  • All the others were confederates who were instructed to provide incorrect answers on 12 out of 18 trials.
  • Asch arranged for the real subject to be the next-to-the-last person in each group to announce his answer so that he would hear most of the confederate’s incorrect responses before giving his own.
  • Would he go along with the crowd?

Solomon_Asch_exp

→ Results of Asch Experiment

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  • 37 out of 50 subjects conformed to the majority at least once.
  • Group results significantly affected the result of the Real Subject.
  • Asch was disturbed by these results of his experiment.

“The tendency to conformity in our society is so strong that reasonably intelligent and well-meaning young people are willing to call white, black. This is a matter of concern. It raises questions about our ways of education and about the values that guide our conduct.” – Solomon Asch

→ Reasons for conformity:

People conform for two main reasons:

  • because they believe that they may not be informed as much as the group.
  • because they want the group to like them.

“ People usually follow the majority even when it’s wrong.”

→ Some Factors Affecting Conformity:

  1. unanimity of the group
  2. group cohesiveness
  3. commitment to the initial judgement
  4. self-presentation
  5. need for individuation
  6. rewards and punishments
  7. the size of the opposing majority

“ It is difficult to be a minority of one but not so difficult to be part of a minority of two.”

>> This is the Normative influence.

When do people conform?

→ Group size

  • 3-5 people will generally elicit greater conformity than 1- 2 people.
  • Beyond 5 – conformity usually drops off.

→ Unanimity

  • An individual disagreeing or deflating the unanimity of the group deflates its social power.
  • S’s will voice their own views if just 1 person has done so.

→ Cohesion

  • Group cohesiveness is directly proportional to the power it has over its members.
  • We easily get swayed by a minority opinion from inside the group we fall in, than from the other group.
  • Example: we often feel compelled to “act-like” those within our ethnic group, to avoid being mocked by other members of our group .

→ Status

  • Higher-status people tend to have more influence over others.

→ Public response

  • People conform to a larger extent when they must respond in front of others.

☆ Why do we conform ?

We conform in order to avoid public rejection & to stay in everyone’s good graces.

☆ Who is susceptible to conformity?

  1. Personality-predisposes us to be either conforming or non-conforming.
  2. Culture– conformity is higher in countries which are high in collectivism & lower in countries which are high in individualism.

☆ Reasons for resisting Social Pressure:

  1. Reaction– people tend to rebel, when their sense of freedom is threatened.
  2. Asserting Uniqueness– being different to make a statement about oneself.
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