Power of conformity essays

Publicly changing behavior to fit in with the group while also agreeing with them privately. An internal private and external public change of behavior. Identification occurs when someone conforms to the demands of a given social role in society. For example, a policeman, teacher or politician. This type of conformity extends over several aspects of external behavior.

However, there still be no changed to internal personal opinion. For example a person may feel pressurised to smoke because the rest of their friends are. Normative influence tends to lead to compliance because the person smokes just for show but deep down they wish not to smoke. This means any change of behavior is temporary. The desire to be right — when we conform because we are unsure of the situation or lack knowledge , so we look to others who we believe may have more information than us.

This explanation tends to lead to internalisation. An example of this is if someone was to go to a posh restaurant for the first time, they may be confronted with several forks and not know which one to use, so they might look to a near by person to see what fork to use first. Jenness carried out a study into conformity — in his experiment participants were asked to estimate how many beans they thought was in a jar.


  1. Solomon Asch: The Man Behind the Conformity Experiments;
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Each participant had to make an individual estimate, and then do the same as a group. He found that when the task was carried out in a social group, the participants would report estimates of roughly the same value even though they had previously reported quite different estimates as individuals. The study was successful in showing majority influence, thus proving that individuals' behavior and beliefs can be influenced by a group. Additionally this is likely to be an example of informational social influence as participants would be uncertain about the actual number of beans in the jar.

Asch wanted to investigate whether people would conform to the majority in situations where an answer was obvious. Each group was presented with a standard line and three comparison lines. Participants had to say aloud which comparison line matched the standard line in length. In each group there was only one true participant the remaining 6 were confederates. The confederates were told to give the incorrect answer on 12 out of 18 trails.

There are also sampling issues regarding this study as the study was only carried out on men thus the sample was gender bias and therefore the results cannot be applied to females. The sample therefore lacks population validity. As a result they could not give informed consent. Furthermore it is possible that the participants may have felt embarrassed when the true nature of the study was revealed. Thus could potentially put them through some form of psychological harm.

However Asch did debrief at the end. In further trials, Asch , changed the procedure i. His results and conclusions are given below:. Asch altered the number of confederates in his study to see how this effected conformity. The bigger the majority group number of confederates , the more people conformed, but only up to a certain point.

With one other person i. Because conformity does not seem to increase in groups larger than four, this is considered the optimal group size. Brown and Byrne suggest that people might suspect collusion if the majority rises beyond three or four. A person is more likely to conform when all members of the groups are in agreement and give the same answer. When one other person in the group gave a different answer from the others, and the group answer was not unanimous, conformity dropped.

When the comparison lines e. When we are uncertain, it seems we look to others for confirmation. The more difficult the task, the greater the conformity. When participants were allowed to answer in private so the rest of the group does not know their response conformity decreases. This is because there are fewer group pressures and normative influence is not as powerful, as there is no fear of rejection from the group. Social roles are the part people play as members of a social group e. There is considerable pressure to conform to the expectations of a social role. Conforming to a social role is called identification.

Zimbardo wanted to investigate how readily people would conform to the social roles of guard and prisoner in a role-playing exercise that simulated prison life. Procedure : To study the roles people play in prison situations, Zimbardo converted a basement of the Stanford University psychology building into a mock prison.


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  • The Power of Conformity Essay?
  • He advertised for students to play the roles of prisoners and guards for a fortnight. Participants were randomly assigned to either the role of prisoner or guard in a simulated prison environment. Prisoners were issued a uniform, and referred to by their number only. Guards were issued a khaki uniform, together with whistles, handcuffs and dark glasses, to make eye contact with prisoners impossible.

    The guards worked shifts of eight hours each the other guards remained on call. No physical violence was permitted. Zimbardo observed the behavior of the prisoners and guards as a researcher , and also acted as prison warden. Findings : Within a very short time both guards and prisoners were settling into their new roles, with the guards adopting theirs quickly and easily.

    Within hours of beginning the experiment some guards began to harass prisoners. They behaved in a brutal and sadistic manner, apparently enjoying it. Other guards joined in, and other prisoners were also tormented. The prisoners soon adopted prisoner-like behavior too.

    They talked about prison issues a great deal of the time. They started taking the prison rules very seriously, and some even began siding with the guards against prisoners who did not obey the rules. As the prisoners became more submissive, the guards became more aggressive and assertive. They demanded ever greater obedience from the prisoners.

    The prisoners were dependent on the guards for everything so tried to find ways to please the guards, such as telling tales on fellow prisoners. Demand characteristics could explain the findings of the study. Most of the guards later claimed they were simply acting.

    Social psychology: Conformity and obedience

    Because the guards and prisoners were playing a role their behavior may not be influenced by the same factors which affect behavior in real life. This means the studies findings cannot be reasonably generalized to real life, such as prison settings. The study may also lack population validity as the sample comprised US male students. The studies findings cannot be applied to female prisons or those from other countries. For example, America is an individualist culture were people are generally less conforming and the results maybe different in collectivist cultures such as Asian countries.

    A strength of the study is that it has altered the way US prisons are run. For example, juveniles accused of federal crimes are no longer housed before trial with adult prisoners due to the risk of violence against them.

    The study has received many ethical criticisms, including lack of fully informed consent by participants as Zimbardo himself did not know what would happen in the experiment it was unpredictable. Also, the prisoners did not consent to being 'arrested' at home. Also, participants playing the role of prisoners were not protected from psychological harm, experiencing incidents of humiliation and distress. For example, one prisoner had to be released after 36 hours because of uncontrollable bursts of screaming, crying and anger. However, in Zimbardo's defence the emotional distress experienced by the prisoners could not have been predicted from the outset.

    How to cite this essay

    In addition Zimbardo did conduct debriefing sessions for several years afterwards and concluded they were no lasting negative effects. Another strength of the study is that the harmful treatment of participant led to the formal recognition of ethical guidelines. Studies must now gain ethical approval before they are conducted. An ethics committee review whether the potential benefits of the research are justifiable in the light of possible risk of physical or psychological harm.

    They may request researchers make changes to the studies design or procedure, or in extreme cases deny approval of the study altogether.

    Conformity Essay | Cram

    Obedience is a type of social influence where a person follows an order from another person who is usually an authority figure. Milgram wanted to know why Germans were willing to kill Jews during the Holocaust. He thought that Americans were different and would not have followed such orders. Procedure : Milgram wanted to see whether people would obey a legitimate authority figure when given instructions to harm another human being.

    To test this he created a set up in which two participants were assigned either the role of a teacher this was always given to the true participant or learner a confederate called Mr. The teacher and learner were put into separate rooms. The teacher was then asked by the experimenter who wore a lab coat to administer electric shocks which were actually harmless to the learner each time he gave the wrong answer. These shocks increased every time the learner gave a wrong answer, from 15 - volts. There were 4 prods and if one was not obeyed then the experimenter read out the next prod, and so on.

    Milgram did more than one experiment — he carried out 18 variations of his study. All he did was alter the situation IV to see how this affected obedience DV. For example, when the experimenter instructed and prompted the teacher by telephone from another room, obedience fell to A limitation is that this study lacked ecological validity as it was carried out in a lab under artificial conditions.


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    • This means that it might not be possible to generalise the finding to a real life setting, as people do not usually receive orders to hurt another person in real life. Another problem is that the sample was biased. Milgram only used males in his study and this means we cannot generalised the results to females. It also highlights how we can all be blind to obedience often doing things without question.

      A strength of the study is that it used a standardised procedure because it was a lab experiment. This is good because it improves the reliability of the study and also helps establish a causal relationship. Milgram also interviewed participants afterwards to find out the effect of the deception. Apparently Protection of participants - Participants were exposed to extremely stressful situations that may have the potential to cause psychological harm.

      Many of the participants were visibly distressed. Signs of tension included trembling, sweating, stuttering, laughing nervously, biting lips and digging fingernails into palms of hands. Three participants had uncontrollable seizures, and many pleaded to be allowed to stop the experiment. Full blown seizures were observed for 3 participants; one so violent that the experiment was stopped. In his defence, Milgram argued that these effects were only short term. Once the participants were debriefed and could see the confederate was OK their stress levels decreased.

      Milgram also interviewed the participants one year after the event and concluded that most were happy that they had taken part. A few of the participants suggested that they actually believed the other members of the group were correct in their answers. These results suggest that conformity can be influenced both by a need to fit in and a belief that other people are smarter or better informed.

      Given the level of conformity seen in Asch's experiments, conformity can be even stronger in real-life situations where stimuli are more ambiguous or more difficult to judge. Asch went on to conduct further experiments in order to determine which factor influenced how and when people conform. He found that:. One of the major criticisms of Asch's conformity experiments centers on the reasons why participants choose to conform. According to some critics, individuals may have actually been motivated to avoid conflict, rather than an actual desire to conform to the rest of the group.

      Another criticism is that the results of the experiment in the lab may not generalize to real-world situations. Many social psychology experts believe that while real-world situations may not be as clear cut as they are in the lab, the actual social pressure to conform is probably much greater, which can dramatically increase conformist behaviors.

      The Asch conformity experiments are among the most famous in psychology's history and have inspired a wealth of additional research on conformity and group behavior. This research has provided important insight into how, why, and when people conform and the effects of social pressure on behavior. Ever wonder what your personality type means? Sign up to find out more in our Healthy Mind newsletter. More in Theories. View All. Factors That Influence Conformity. Conformity tends to increase when more people are present.

      Conformity also increases when the task becomes more difficult. In the face of uncertainty, people turn to others for information about how to respond. Conformity increases when other members of the group are of a higher social status. When people view the others in the group as more powerful, influential, or knowledgeable than themselves, they are more likely to go along with the group.

      Conformity tends to decrease, however, when people are able to respond privately. Asch's Contributions to Psychology. How Does Conformity Influence Behavior. Was this page helpful?

      Thanks for your feedback! Sign Up. What are your concerns? Article Sources. Britt, MA. Avon, MA: Adams Media; Myers, DG. Exploring Psychology. New York: Worth Publishers; Continue Reading.

      Gender Differences

      Compliance Techniques in Psychology Research. Obedience Research and Meaning in Psychology. Why Was the Milgram Experiment so Controversial? Verywell Mind uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By using Verywell Mind, you accept our.