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Noor Mohsin, IB1A, Psychology HL

2011-05-24

Dicuss factors influencing conformity (Q 12)


Conformity is defined as the tendency to adjust ones thoughts, feelings, or behavior in ways that are in agreement with those of a particular individual or group, or with accepted standards about how a person should behave in specific situations (social norms). In simpler words, it is the change in behavior towards a group or social norm due to pressure from a group. In this essay I am going to discuss the different factors that can affect conformity. Very often, conformity is due to peer pressure in environments such as in schools. But conformity does not necessarily have to occur in schools, it can occur at all levels of society, in order to fit in. This is shown in a study conducted By Asch (1951), where his aim was to find out to what extent a person would conform to an incorrect answer on a test if the response from the other members of the group was consentient. His method involved that the participants entered a room where there were six people and the researcher. The men in the room were dressed like businessmen, in suits and ties. These men were part of the study, and they were playing a role unknown to the participants. They were used to deceive the participants. They were shown cards with different lengths of lines, and a card with one constant length. They were to select the line from the first card that matched the length on the second card. There were 18 trials in total, and in some the lines were hardly noticeable, while in others it was very clear. The confederates were instructed to answer incorrectly for the majority and correctly for some of the trials. The goal was to see if the participants would conform to the wrong answers given, even when it was clear that the response was incorrect. The results found were that about 75 % agreed with confederates incorrect answers at least once during the trials. A mean on 32 % agreed with incorrect answers in half or more of the trials, but 24 % did not conform to any incorrect answers. Asch states that the factors that made the participants conform are: group size, unanimity, confidence and self-esteem. When thinking about the group sizes, Asch (1955) found that with only one confederate, only 3 % conformed, with two confederates; 14 %, with three: 32 %. In unanimity conformity was most likely to occur when all confederates agreed on something (Asch 1956). But, if one of the confederates disagreed, the participant was less likely to conform. Confidence of an individual is when someone feels more competent to make decisions with regards to a field of expertise, and therefore that person will less likely conform. In self-esteem on the other hand, Stang (1973) found that participants were less likely to conform to incorrect answers if they had a high self-esteem.

Noor Mohsin, IB1A, Psychology HL

2011-05-24

This leads us to another study conducted by Moscivici and Lage (1976), which involved four participants and two confederates. The minority of the two confederates described a blue-green color as green. The result was that the minority was able to influence about 32 % of the participants to make at least one incorrect judgment about the color of the slides they were shown. Also, the participants continued to give incorrect answers even after the two confederates had left the experiment. Therefore, participants did conform even though there was only a minority that influenced. Hogg and Vaughan (1995) explain how a minority can cause the majority to conform. The reasons are: Dissenting opinions produce uncertainty and doubt, lowers ones confidence in an answer. Such opinions show that alternatives exist, and therefore what they assumed is the right answer does not have to be. Consistency shows that there is a commitment to the alternative view.

Here one can see a correlation between the factors affecting conformity in the study Asch conducted and the conformity explanation of minority over majority in Moscivici and Lages study. Unanimity agrees with Consistency shows that there is a commitment to the alternative view, since they all agree on something and are consistent on it, and therefore the participant can conform. Also, dissenting opinions, which produces uncertainty and doubt, supports Aschs explanation in which if self-esteem is high the one is less likely to conform, since one does not care about the others opinions. Here one can see that Moscivici and Lages study supports Aschs study, since they both state that disagreeing and low confidence than cause people to conform easily. In conclusion, one can state that the factors affecting conformity are group size, unanimity, confidence and self-esteem, which supports Moscivici and Lages study and Hogg and Vaughan (1995) explanation of minority over majority influence. These factors affect conformity largely, since by looking at the studies conducted this is proven correct.