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What is conformity?

A change in a person’s behaviour or opinions as a result of real or imagined pressure from a person or group of people


What are the 3 variations of conformity?

- internalisation
- identification
- compliance


Discuss internalisation

-a deep type of conformity where we take on the majority view because we accept it as correct I.e. genuinely accept the group norms
- when exposed to the views of other members of a group, individuals are encouraged to engage in a validation process, examining their own beliefs to see if they or others are right
-close examination of the group’s position may convince the individual that they are wrong and the group is right- this is particularly likely if the group is generally trustworthy in their views and the individual has tended to go along with them on previous occasions
- this can lead to acceptance of the group’s point of view both publicly and privately


Why is internalisation said to be a deep type of conformity?

The change is more likely to be permanent and so persist in the absence of group members because the attitudes and beliefs have been internalised I.e. become part of the way a person thinks


Discuss identification

-When we identify with a group we value, we want to become part of it
- this may mean we publicly change our opinions/ behaviours to achieve this goal, even if we don’t privately agree with everything the group stands for


What’s a good example of identification?

Zimbardo’s study as the prison guards and prisoners in the study identified with the group (prisoners or guards) they were a part of


Discuss compliance

A superficial and temporary type of conformity that stops as soon as group pressure diminishes- simply involves ‘going along with others’ in public, but privately not changing personal opinions and/or behaviour


What’s a good example of compliance?

Asch’s study where participants went along with the group norm despite privately disagreeing/questioning (to avoid looking foolish)


Who proposed the 3 types of conformity?



What’s the key difference between 3 types of conformity?

-each type of conformity has a particular set of motivating conditions that leads to a conforming response
- for example, if an individual’s prime motivation is to fit in with the rest of the group, they may comply rather than internalise the group’s position on a particular issue
- alternatively, if the primary motivation is to find the most appropriate way of responding in a particular situation, then internalising the group position may be seen as most credible way of achieving this


What are the 2 explanations for conformity?

- informational social influence
- normative social influence


Discuss normative social influence

- NSI all about ‘norms’ (what is typical of a group) and a desire to behave like others and not look foolish (emotional process)
- as humans are a social species, we have a fundamental need for social companionship and a fear of censure and rejection= it is this that forms the basis for NSI


What are the conditions where NSI is most likely to occur?

- unfamiliar situations where you don’t know the ‘norms’ and therefore look to others about how to behave
- surrounded by familiar people (people most concerned about social approval of their friends)
- stressful situations where people have a greater need for social support


NSI is more associated with which type of conformity?

Compliance, as the change in behaviour tends to be temporary (fit behaviour to ‘norms’ not necessarily internalise it)


Discuss informational social influence

- as stated, revolves around information
- ISI occurs when an individual accepts information from others as evidence about reality
- as well as having a need to be accepted, human beings also have a need to feel confident that their perceptions and beliefs are correct
- ISI is a cognitive process as it is fuelled by the desire to be right


What are the conditions where ISI is most likely to occur?

- where there is some ambiguity (right course of action is not clear)
- where decisions have to be made quickly
- where others are experts (we believe that others have more knowledge than we have) = as a result, the individual does not just comply in behaviour alone, but also changes their behaviour in line with the group position- because this involves a change in both public and private attitudes and behaviours, this is an example of internalisation


What are the evaluation points?

✅ research support for ISI (Lucas et al, 2006)
✅ research support for NSI (Asch, 1951)
❌ ‘two-process’ approach may be an oversimplification
❌ limitation of ISI is individual differences


Explain how Lucas et al (2006) demonstrated support for ISI

- Lucas et al (2006) asked students to give answers to some difficult mathematical problems
- there was greater conformity to incorrect answers when they were difficult rather than easier problems; this was most true for students who rated their mathematical ability as poor
- this shows that people conform in situations where they feel they don’t know the answer I.e. ISI- we look to other people and assume they know better than us and must be right


Explain how Asch demonstrated research support for NSI?

- Asch used lab experiment to study conformity where 50 American male students participated in a ‘vision test’ using a line judgement task- Asch put a naive participant in a room with 7 confederates who agreed in advance what their responses would be to the presented lines
- Asch asked participants why they went along with the wrong answer. Some of the participants said they felt self-conscious giving the wrong answer and they felt afraid of disapproval
- when Asch repeated his study, but asked participants to write down their answers, conformity rates fell to 12.5%
- this supports participants’ own reports that they were mainly confirming because of NSI


Explain how a limitation of NSI and ISI is that the ‘two-process’ approach may be an oversimplification

- the idea of the ‘two-process’ approach is that behaviour is either due to NSI or ISI- however more often, both processes are involved
- for example, conformity is reduced when there is one other dissenting participant in the Asch experiment- this dissenter may reduce the power of NSI (as they provide provide social support) or may reduce the power of ISI (as there is an alternative source of information)
- this shows that it isn’t always possible to be sure whether NSI or ISI is at work= this casts serious doubts over the view of NSI and ISI as operating independently in confirming behaviour


Explain how a limitation of ISI is individual differences

- Asch (1955) found that students were less conformist (less than than other participants
- this suggests that people who are knowledgable and/or more confident are less influenced by the apparently ‘right’ view of a majority
- therefore there are individual differences in the way people respond = effects of ISI aren’t consistent