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What Is Conformity And Obedience Psychology Essay

According to Saks Krupat, communal influence is a process in which an individuals attitudes, values or behaviours are changed by the actions of others. There are many types of public influence, some more simple than others. Sometimes these influences are unintended, or go undetected by the individual. (Cardwell et al, 2000)

What is conformity?

Conformity can be used showing an contract to the majority, brought on by a desire to fit in, or be liked. David Myers (1999) detailed conformity as a big change in an individual's notion or behaviour because of real (relating to the physical presence of others) or dreamed (relating to the pressure of interpersonal norms/prospects) group pressure. Group pressure can express in many ways e. g. bullying, persuasion and criticism. Therefore, conformity is a majority effect. (Cardwell et al, 2000)

What is conformity?

Obedience is another form of communal influence; this is where a person responds to a direct order. The order usually originates from an authoritative amount, for example a police officer. Obedience is the essential structure of sociable life and authority is a dependence on communal living, but you must remember that not all functions of obedience are ambitious. (Cardwell et al, 2000)

Solomon Asch have the most famous conformity test in 1951. Asch's goal was to investigate to see the extent where sociable pressure from a majority could affect an individual to conform. After advertising for individuals in a Mindset laboratory examination Asch determined fifty men all in the same age group for the first round of tests. All individuals were advised that they might be taking part in a perspective test using lines judgement.

The test: Asch showed two cards to seven people seated around a stand, on the first card was the test brand. The other cards had three lines with differing lengths; the individuals one by one said aloud which of the lines one, several matched the test brand. There have been eighteen studies and unbeknown to the participants Asch possessed confederates (accomplices) within the group. Their role was to provide unanimously the same incorrect answer in twelve of the studies; this is to see if the participant who travelled last would concur and conform. (Cardwell et al, 2000)

The results: Asch discovered that in thirty-two percent of the trails, those where the confederates gave the incorrect answer the participant conformed with the view of the majority. Asch also learned that seventy-two percent of the participants conformed once. However, some members were assured in their answer and twenty-five percent of the members did not conform. (Cardwell et al, 2000)

After the test, Asch interviewed the individuals and found that conformity happened at three levels.

Distortion of Conception - this is where the conforming participants did not understand their estimates had been distorted by the majority. The individuals actually thought that the lines acknowledged by the confederates was in-fact the right answer.

Distortion of Judgement - most of the conforming individuals thought that their notion was wrong, and for that reason agreed with the majority.

Distortion of Action - some conforming members did not undertake a distortion of perception or judgement. They decided with the majority for concern with being ridiculed or worse, excluded from the group.

Asch found that there have been two main reasons for why people conformed. Normative impact this was a desire to squeeze in with the group, and informational effect, that's where the individual thinks the group more knowledgeable than they are.

Perrin & Spencer (1980) implies that Asch's experiment had poor stability. They replicated Asch's original research, this time around the students were British, from the domains of anatomist, mathematics and chemistry. They found that in 3 hundred and ninety-six studies there was only 1 occurrence of conformity. (Cardwell et al, 2000)

Asch's study didn't demonstrate real life conformity, judging range lengths was artificial and not more likely to happen in everyday activities, therefore the research was lower in ecological validity. The study was also alpha bias and 'a child of its time' McCarthyism was prominent in 1950's America where conformity was a communal norm. This did not change until the 1960's with the era of individualism. Finally, what about the honest issues as the individuals were deceived? These were advised the test was about eyesight testing not conformity, then there was the psychological stress particularly if the participants wanted to disagree with the majority.

In 1973, American prisons were confirming brutality. Psychologist Philip Zimbardo wanted to see if this is because of the guard's sadistic dynamics or the prison itself. Zimbardo devised a lab experiment and turned a basement in the psychology division at Stanford University or college into a mock prison, with barred entrances, windows, bare wall surfaces and small cells. With Zimbardo playing the role of the superintendent, he placed an advertisement offering $15 a day for fourteen days where members would be either guards or prisoners. Zimbardo chosen twenty-one male students from the seventy-five people and inspected them for both physical and emotional normality. (Cardwell et al, 2000)

The members were randomly chosen a role to keep carefully the experiment as real life as you possibly can. The guards were released with a khaki uniform a whistle, handcuffs, baton and dark spectacles; this is to make eyes contact impossible. The guards made the guidelines with the exception of one, no physical violence. The prisoners were arrested at their homes without warning and taken up to their local law enforcement officials station; they were treated just like any other unlawful. They had their photographs and fingerprints taken, blindfolded and then taken up to the psychology departments at Stanford University or college. This is where the de-individuation started.

The experiment: On appearance at the prison, the prisoners were stripped naked, deloused and given bed linens. They were given a standard that consisted of a smock bearing their prison number, a good nylon cap and a string around one ankle. There were three guards to the nine prisoners, each guard working an eight-hour change with the rest on call. At first, everything was fine with both prisoner and shield adopted their tasks. (Cardwell et al, 2000)

Within hours a few of the guards started to harass the prisoners, they started out to behave in a sadistic manner and enjoyed it, it didn't take miss the other guards to follow. They taunted the prisoners with insults; giving them pointless careers and making them fall into line three times each day for a role count. The relationship with the guards and prisoners continued to improve over the next couple of days, as the prisoners became more centered the guards became more contemptuous.

As the contempt grew the prisoners became even more submissive, this made the guards more hostile and demand complete behavior from the prisoners. Eventually the prisoners rebelled, barricading themselves in their cells. After only six days, Zimbardo ceased the test having anxieties that the participants may become physically or mentally damaged. (Cardwell et al, 2000)

The results: After the researchers had obtained all the info, the members were recalled for a follow-up interview. Here is an excerpt from the real interviews with Zimbardo and the guards.

Most of the individuals said they had felt included and committed which the research acquired sensed "real" to them. One shield said, "I had been surprised at myself. I made them call one another names and clean the toilets out using their bare hands. I almost considered the prisoners cattle and I stored thinking I put to consider them in the event they attempted something. " Another officer said, "Acting authoritatively can be fun. Electricity can be considered a great pleasure. " And another: ". . . through the inspection I visited Cell Two to mess up a foundation which a prisoner had just made and he grabbed me, screaming that he had just managed to get and that he was not going to let me clutter it up. He grabbed me by the throat and even though he was laughing, I had been worried. I lashed out with my keep and hit him on the chin although not very hard, so when I freed myself I became upset. " (McLeod, 2008)

Many criticisms have arose since this research; Savin (1973) criticized Zimbardo on the ethics of his review and stated the following:

Although the participants signed an agreement used by Stanford College or university, participants didn't give full consent.

It was sensed that whenever the participants arrived at the prison, the original technique was humiliating and dehumanizing.

Savin also thought that the study should never have taken place as it became too real for some.

Zimbardo did respond to the criticisms as follows:

The individuals were offered several remedy lessons with Zimbardo and his fellow workers to help them with any thoughts.

Zimbardo maintained contact with the participants through the year after the experiment ended to benefit the persistence of any negative effects. (Cardwell et al, 2000)

It is very difficult to criticise Zimbardo's experiment on moral grounds, particularly when those posted by organisations like the English Psychological Society didn't exist. Zimbardo himself have concur that he shouldn't have been the principal researcher and play the area of the superintendent, especially as he too became stuck within the role. As for obtaining full consent, if Zimbardo acquired explained every part of the experiment to the participants it would not have been true to life. However, he does deceive the individuals.

Moscovici et al (1996) devised an test to understand why people yield to a minority effect. The experiment contains six things estimating the colour of thirty-six slides. All the slides were blue, Moscovici added filter systems to vary the brightness. All the participants were checked out to ensure that they had good eyesight. Unbeknown to the participants Moscovici acquired two confederates, they consisted the minority. Moscovici assessed the minorities impact in two ways, consistent and inconsistent. (Cardwell et al, 2000)

In the steady test, the minority said the slides were renewable on all of the one hundred and twenty-eight studies.

In the inconsistent experiment, the minority said that the slides were green twenty-four times and blue twelve times in the forty-four trials

The results: Moscovici and his fellow workers found that in the consistent studies 8. 42 percent arranged with the minority and 32 percent said inexperienced at least one time.

In the inconsistent studies, they learned that only one 1. 25 percent agreed with the minority, Moscovici did not divulge the number of participants that agreed more than once.

In 1985, Moscovici recognized two characteristics that the minority needed if indeed they were to use public influence on almost all, behaviour and uniformity. With both of these characteristics, it is possible for the minority to effect almost all. (Cardwell et al, 2000)

It is a shame that Moscovici did not release figures for just how many individuals yielded in the inconsistent studies. Was this because nothing of the participants yielded? Again, as Zimbardo Moscovici does deceive the participants, but did this cause them any internal harm. Other than this there is hardly any to criticise.

In finish, Asch and his brand review has proven that if you have a majority who agree with their answer this could cause others to improve theirs without realising, or even mistrust there judgeability when it's obvious to see that almost all are incorrect. However, this simply could be because they just wanted to fit in and be liked. Zimbardo and the mock prison experiment should never have occurred, and it would be very difficult to reproduce today. Even though Zimbardo's research has been greatly criticised, it has shown people do comply with certain roles in certain situations. Finally, much like Asch's line research on majority effect, Moscovici turned out that despite having a minority of just two it was possible to affect almost all.


Cardwell, M. Clark, L. Meldrum, C. (2000). Mindset for AN EVEN. 2nd ed. London: Collins. p107 -115.

McLeod, S. A. (2008). Zimbardo - Stanford Jail Experiment. [online] Available from: http://www. simplypsychology. org/zimbardo. html [Accessed 4th May 2013].

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