Conformity Essay

Topics: Muzafer Sherif, Autokinetic effect, Social psychology Pages: 4 (1203 words) Published: February 8, 2013
Describing a study on conformity

Conformity is a form of social influence which involves a change in a belief or behaviour in order to fit in with a particular 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.

Muzafer Sherif (1935) conducted a lab experiment study on conformity in 1935. Sherif conducted this study by putting participants in a dark room and told them to watch a pinpoint of light and report how far it moved. However psychologists had discovered that a small, still light in a dark room often appeared to be moving and this was known as the autokinetic effect. The autokinetic effect is an illusion because the light does not actually move. However, people almost always believe that it does move. He found out that when participants were tested alone; their estimates (on how far the light moved) was very different (e.g. from 20cm to 80cm).  The participants were then tested in groups of three. However Sherif manipulated the composition of the group by putting together two people whose estimate of the light movement when alone was very similar, and one person whose estimate was very different. Each person in the group had to say aloud how far they thought the light had moved. Sherif found that over several trials of the movement of light, the group had a common estimate. On the other hand this showed that people would always tend to conform rather than make individual judgments they tend to come to a group agreement. In spite of this he repeated the study (using the same people) with the whole group present in the same room; he discovered that everyone's answer was based on the estimate given by the first person he asked for the answer. This study shows that in an ambiguous situation people will tend to look to others for the answers instead of relying on their own independent answers. Criticisms of his study are that the...
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