Conformity – Case Study
Conformity – Case Study
Individual’s respond to group pressure
The Asch conformity experiments refers to a series of investigations and studies that showed the results of people’s behavior as having a certain level of conformity. The experiments were led by Solomon Asch and comprised of students of SwarthmoreCollege who were asked to take part in a vision test. Only one individual in the group was selected to be the confederate and the study was to investigate the behavior of the remaining students in relation to the confederate. Each group had five to seven confederates among the unknowing members. The test involved all the group members answering questions with the confederates answering last or almost last.
The results revealed that out of eighteen trials, the confederates answered twelve of them incorrectly. This meant that individuals would conform to something wrong when presented with many decisions that were equally wrong. In the study, the real participants opted to provide incorrect answers after realizing that most of the individuals voiced an incorrect answer beforehand. Different variations of the experiment tested other elements that were responsible for inducing conformity. These tests proved that it was pronounced in large groups as compared to the influence of one or two people.
Other studies by Sherif in 1935 proved that situations that presented ambiguity were almost always a sure opportunity for people to conform to the majority view. Some of the reasons that people presented in these conformity experiments included their inclination not to be different from the rest, their own personal doubts and answering what they though the experimenter expected from them. It was also evident that all the participants in the experiments knew that they were giving wrong answers. These Asch and Sherif experiments also produced results that reinforced the role of cultural contexts in determining the level of conformity. (Zimbardo, 2007).
Observations and experience with conformity
There have been different studies on the topic of conformity done by various scholars. There have been different types of conformity discovered over the years. Normative conformity refers to the influence of other individuals that leads us to conform in an attempt to be accepted by them. This type of conformity leads to a large group compliance that might not be readily interpreted as acceptance. Normative social influence serves to encourage social unity as majority of members who conform to social behavior become more stable. The mass media exercises normative conformity by exposing errant social behavior that serves to strengthen the social norms concerning that type of action (Sycamore, 2006).
Informational conformity refers to the kind of social influence where an individual depends on the information from one member of a certain group in order to get the truth about life. This kind of conformity is mostly applicable in certain situations for example when people are unsure of what decision to make, during a crisis and when the situation is ambiguous. The information from such people could be comforting but sometimes may be wrong and misguide a person. This is why experts are always referred to by people with little information because people that are more knowledgeable are considered more valuable.
Ingratiational conformity refers to the type of conformity that occurs when an individual attempts to act in a manner that would be appealing or approving in order to be recognized and accepted by their peers. This might involve the need by one person to be similar to other people so that they may be liked as well. This is almost similar to normative conformity but the difference is that it is motivated by the need for social satisfaction rather than the danger of being rejected by others. For this case, it is more of being able to benefit from fitting in to a particular group.
Three concepts of conformity
The size of the group adversely affects the magnitude of social conformity. The larger the size of the group, the greater the influence it has on people. Within Solomon Asch’s study, the confederates had to be a large group that would effectively influence the rest of the real participants. In the study done by Milgram, he found out that if more people did something, it had a bigger influence for example if one person stopped and stared at the sky, about 4% of people would stop. However, if fifteen confederates stopped to stare at the sky, more than 40% of the pedestrians would stop and look too.
The gender factor plays a major role in the way in which people conform to social persuasion. The way in which males and females conform has been studied by different scholars with varying results. Women were found to be more persuadable in positions that exposed them to group pressures. This was especially in situations where surveillance was present. This difference in sex may be because of the gender roles in the society. In most societies, women are brought up to be more cooperative whereas men are taught to be more autonomous. A study by Reitan and Shaw disclosed that these gender differences are pronounced when the participants of both sexes were occupied with one sex (Spradley & McCurdy, 2012).
Personality also influences the direction and degree of conformity. Self-confidence and self-esteem are important qualities in individuals that determine if they can easily be influenced. The people in the studies would have been more constant in their answers if they had a higher self-confidence or self-esteem. Cultural factors also play a minor role in conforming people. Individualistic societies are more inclined towards self-determination among people than other societies.
Spradley, J. P., & McCurdy, D. W. (2012). Conformity and conflict: Readings in cultural anthropology. UpperSaddleRiver, N.J: Pearson.
Sycamore, M. B. (2006). Nobody passes: Rejecting the rules of gender and conformity. Emeryville, CA: Seal Press.
Zimbardo, P. G. (2007). The Lucifer effect: Understanding how good people turn evil. New York: Random House.
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