Conformity and Obedience

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Conformity and Obedience

Why do we conform? Two basic sources of influence: normative social influence, the need to be liked, accepted by others and Informational influence: need to be correct and to behave in accordance with reality. Solomon Asch (1956) devised an experiment to see if subjects would conform even if they were uncertain that the group norm was incorrect. In his study he asked subjects to take part in an experiment. They were each asked to match a standard length line with three other lines. He found that one of the situational factors of conformity is the size of the opposing majority. In a series of studies he varied the number of confederates that gave correct answers from 1 -15. He found that subjects conformed to a group of 3 or 4 as readily as they did to a larger group. Some of the subjects indicated afterward that they assumed the rest of the people were correct and that their own perceptions were wrong. Others knew they were correct but didn't want to be different from the rest of the group. Some even insisted that they saw the line lengths as the majority claimed to see them. Asch and his students did many variations of the study for example they altered the differences between the line lengths making them much smaller and so the correct answer was much less certain, this showed that the conformity increased. What seems to happen is that we have more need for a groups input as a task becomes more difficult. If in the beginning of Asch's experiment we conformed because we didn't want to be embarrassed then in the more ambiguous situation we also ‘conform' because we are less sure of ourselves and so the others in the group become our source of information. This is an example of the difference between normative influence and informational influence. Normative influence is where we have a need psychologically to be accepted and do not want to risk not being accepted. Humans have a need for social approval by conforming then we are fulfilling this need. Non conformity can sometimes result in disapproval or social isolation where as conforming can result in approval and social acceptance. Informational influence is based on the desire to be right, individuals look to others for guidance when they are unsure of what to do or how to behave in a situation. This often occurs in situations such as first formal dinner party or first day in a new job, observation of other people who appear to know what the norm of a situation are can be used to select appropriate behaviour. Sometimes you can conform because you feel that you are inferior to someone. For example I was in a quiz with a team of 4-6 people and they were a mixture of doctors, teachers and business managers regardless of their ages but simply based on their professions, I would assume that they were all far more intelligent than myself and would go along with whatever answers they gave, rather than voice my opinion unless I was 100% certain just to avoid embarrassing myself. If I was on a quiz with the same amount of people but they were in similar jobs to me, then I would be much more likely to argue and disagree with answers even if I wasn't 100% certain because I would view them as equal to my level of intelligence. It is therefore safe to say that conformity is very much based on an individuals self esteem and confidence and will vary in different situations and settings. Some people will also conform not to cause any arguments and therefore keep their opinions and thoughts to themselves rather than face conflict. Most people will conform to the majority so what about the minority then? Moscovici et al (1969) conducted a study which involved two stages, the first stage consisted of 6 females, 2 of which were confederates they were all shown slides and asked to say what colour they were, they were all blue slides and their brightness varied. The confederates said some of them were green and although only 1% in the control group included...
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