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What is conformity?

o Change behaviour to adhere to social norms – rules of conduct
o Explicit (laws, written rules) vs. implicit (cultural norms, age appropriate behaviour, etiquette)


Why we conform; informational social influence

o Look to others as a source of information to guide our behaviour because we believe they know better, especially when the need for accuracy is high


When do people conform to informational influence?

- Ambiguous situations
- Crisis; lead to contagion (transmission of emotion/behaviour in a crowd); lead to psychogenic illness (physical symptoms not explained by a real illness/issue)
- When others are experts (ex: fire alarm we look to prof)


Private acceptance vs. Public compliance

Private acceptance: accept it as true because you believe that the others know what they're doing (Due to informational social influence)

Public compliance: conform to is because you don't want to look stupid for disagreeing with the majority; don't necessarily believe it (due to normative social influence)


Normative social influence

- conforming to be liked/accepted
- results in public compliance not private acceptance
- dangerous influences


Social impact theory - 3 variables (Latane)

- theory explaining in what situations one is more likely to conform to normative social influence
1) strength/cohesiveness; how important group is to you
2) immediacy; how close physically and in time is the group to you during the influence attempt?
3) number; how many people in group? peaks at 4-5 people (exponential)


Effects of the group on normative social influence (Latane)

o Size
- Matters most for normative conformity
- Doesn’t need to be large (3-5)
o Importance
- Closer ties = higher normative conformity
- Group attractiveness/identity
o Unanimity
- Normative conformity highest when group is unanimous
- Easier to resist when dissenter in the group


Individual Differences

o Personality
- Some evidence for low self-esteem (conform more)
o Gender differences in conformity
- Men less conforming than women but difference is small
- Private vs. public conformity (more to do with public compliance rather than private acceptance due to socialization)
- Socialization processes; women are agreeable, men are independent
- Familiarity with topic; conform less if you know more about the topic


Cultural Differences

- Rates of conformity in Asch study differed across cultures : individualistic vs. collective
- individualistic; conform less
- collective; conform more, and conform even less than individualistic cultures when in their presences (don't conform in order to conform...WOAH PARADOX)
-directing influence vs. adapting
- normative social influence promotes harmony and supportive relationships


Resisting Normative Social Influence

o Going against the group can have consequences
- Rejection, ridicule, ostracization
- Less so if you have idiosyncrasy credits
• Allowed to behave different from the group because you've earned "points" by conforming for so long


Social Influence and Beauty - Perceptions of attractiveness

- Cultural preferences and food supply
• Study: inverse relationship; the greater the food supply, the greater the liking for thin bodies
- Informational social influence (media…)
• What is being perpetuated in the media; movement in the past ~5 years toward body acceptance
- Normative social influence
• Adhere to the informational social influence even if we don’t quite buy into that; we may be happy with our body, but if society is trying to push something on you, you might try to strive for the ideal thrust on you
- Women and body image: eating disorders
• Study: 80% of women wanted to change their body shape
- Men and body image: steroid abuse


Minority Influence

o The few can influence the many through unanimity & consistency
- Majorities: public compliance through normative social influence
- Minorities: private acceptance through informational social influence
• In order to exert influence need to rely on informational social influence (need logical arguments)


Conformity everyday; compliance vs. obedience

o Conformity pressures can be applied to two kinds of everyday behaviour
1) compliance: response to a request form another
2) obedience: response to a direct order from an authority figure
• Greater pressure because request is from authority; usually there’s consequences if you don’t comply


Door-in-the-Face Technique

- outrageous + more reasonable
- Reciprocity norm (if someone is doing something nice for us we should reciprocate; ex: given a greeting card, so we should donate to their cause)
- Short-term compliance
- Start off with outrageous request; then ask a more reasonable request
- You demonstrate that you can be reasonable; make it sound like you’re meeting them half way


Foot-in-the-Door Technique

- small request + larger one
- Self-image
- Long-term compliance
- Start off with a small request; then keep asking larger things
- Cause the person to get into their self-image of being a good person (ex: sign petition for SPCA; then ask would you be willing to make a small donation); if you say no…it’ll put you in a state of cognitive dissonance



- low price first + commitment + raise price
1 - illusion of irrevocability
2 – excitement, don’t want to be disappointed
3 – final price slightly higher than price elsewhere
Ex: go to a dealership; see a car for 22K, across the street it’s for 20K; they get you in the car, get excited; then go to sign and do calculations and all the sudden it’s actually 22.5K; but we feel committed at this point; so we do it anyway…


Obedience to authority - Milgram

o Stanley Milgram (1963) – mock shock experiments
- Findings:
• 62.5% delivered max volts
• 80% continued in spite of protests
• Obligation vs. aggression
• Moral disengagement
• Informational & normative pressures
• Fast-paced (confusing, stressful)
• Small increments
- Causes cognitive dissonance; we have morals but someone is telling you to go against it…


Obedience to authority - Zimbardo

• Justification for actions (keep order in “prison”)
• Authority to legitimize actions
• Meaningful roles (prisoner/guard, teacher/student)
• Rules to channel actions
• Contractual agreement to rules before starting
• Permission to engage in taboo act
• Semantic distortion
• Initial harmful act minimal (small increments again: first push-ups, then scrub toilets; then goes on…)
• Subsequent acts escalate gradually
• Diffusion of responsibility
• Focus on technology, not act
• Do not allow for dissention
• Actors in novel setting
• Exit costs high
• Compartmentalization of act (just doing one small thing; but they have bigger consequences – ex: nazi Germany, dude stamping paper to see if someone lives or dies…he isn’t leading them into the gas chamber so he feels ok)