Generaleneral Psychologysychology


Sherif, Asch, and Factors that Influence Conformity

1. Sherif (1935) made use of the autokinetic effect to perform a classic conformity study. If you look at a stationary light in an otherwise dark room the light will appear to move, because your eyes have no other reference point. Sherif found that a subject's reports of movement were highly influenced by other people's estimates.

2. Ever here the old phrase: "Seeing is believing." Well, the following experiment by Solomon Asch (1958) indicates the old saying is not necessarily true. Subjects asked to indicate which of three lines was the same length as a standard line. The judgments were very easy. If people were tested individually almost no errors were made.

Some subjects gave their judgments in groups of seven. Six of the group members were confederates of the experimenter. The next to last person to respond was the actual subject. On the early on the early trials, everyone gave the correct answer. Then, on a prearranged trial all confederates gave the same obviously incorrect response. Subjects conformed by giving the wrong response on thirty-two percent of the test trials. Many of those people who did not conform felt the need to explain their actions to other group members.

3. Factors that influence the extent of conformity

a) In general, the larger the number of persons who form a unanimous majority the greater the conformity they produce.

b) High status persons produce more conformity than low status persons.

c) Conformity is likely to be greater if you expect to meet the other group members in the future or if the group controls resources that you value.

d) The degree of conformity is greatly reduced if another "deviant" is in the group.
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