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Social Influence Conformity, Social Roles, & Obedience to Authority Conformity • Conformity is shaping one’s behavior or attitudes to conform to that of others, e.g., group norms • A famous study about conformity was completed by Solomon Asch in the 1950’s • Asch had subjects come into a laboratory setting and give answers to a simple line matching task. Which of the lines on the right matches the line on the left? A B C Did you pick Line C? • This is the sort of task that Asch asked subjects to complete. • The correct answer is chosen easily by most people in the absence of any experimental manipulation. • But what if subjects had to give their answers in a group where everyone else had given a wrong answer (e.g., Line A) instead of the correct answer? Asch’s study • Asch used confederates in order to find out what subjects would do in groups where others gave the wrong answers What are confederates? • A confederate is a person who acts as if s/he is a subject but who is really following the instructions of the experimenter. • Other subjects see the confederate as a ―fellow subject‖ but really the confederate is acting in the way that the researcher has already set up ahead of time. Asch’s study • Subjects were brought into groups where all other subjects were confederates (though the subjects, of course, didn’t know this). They were asked to complete a series of line tasks similar to the one you just saw in this presentation. Asch’s study • For beginning trials, confederates picked the correct line but then as the experiment went on, they began to answer incorrectly • What did Asch’s subjects do? Asch’s findings • Asch’s subjects conformed (i.e., gave the WRONG answer) 1/3 of the time. • 76% of the subjects conformed at least once at some time during the experiment • This is especially important when one realizes that these are groups of people with whom the subjects have no enduring relationships • Examine Asch’s data presented in the tables in the following slide to see what they suggest about conformity. Asch’s findings • This chart compares the answers of a ―control‖ group who gave their answers without being in a group of confederates who answered incorrectly to the answers of the ―experimental‖ subjects. • The top line is the % correct in the ―control‖ subjects; the bottom the % correct in the experimental subjects. • Notice that when subjects are not influenced by others, they almost always give the correct answer. Asch’s findings • This chart shows the percentage of errors made depending upon the number of group members (who were giving incorrect answers). Across the bottom (horizontal x axis) is the # of group members. The vertical Y axis shows the percentage of errors made. • What do you notice about the chart? Asch’s findings • This chart compares the percentage of correct responses given by one experimental subject in a group where the subject is alone in a group with confederates who are all giving wrong answers vs. the % correct given when there are two subjects (and thus they can ―support‖ each other in their judgments of the correct answer). Asch’s findings • When even one other person (whether a confederate or another subject) gives the correct answer (even when all the rest of the confederates are giving incorrect answers), conformity rates decrease significantly. • In other words, the subject is much less likely to go along with the group and give an incorrect answer when there is just one other person in the room who is also disagreeing with the rest of the group. Do you think that Asch’s findings would still hold true in the 2000’s???? Are people just as likely to conform now as they were in the 1950’s when Asch performed his study? Would Asch’s findings still hold true in the 2000’s???? • My intro psych class in Fall 2001 semester attempted to replicate Asch’s study (In other words, they carried out a similar experiment to see if they would get similar results.) • We tested 4 subjects; students in the class served as confederates. • (Remember that ―confederates‖ are people who appear to be subjects but are actually behaving in ways prearranged by the experimenter. ) • All of our subjects were females. (All of Asch’s subjects were males.) • We had 20 trials using the same sort of line task as Asch used How did the confederates answer in our experiment? • In 8 of the 20 trials, the confederates gave the correct answer; in 10 of the 20 trials, all the confederates gave the wrong answer; in one trial, all of the confederates but one gave the correct answer; in one trial, only one confederate gave the incorrect answer. What were our findings? – We found that ALL of our 4 subjects conformed to the group’s wrong answer at least once. – The range of errors made by subjects was 1-8 with an average error rate of 3 so our subjects also conformed approximately 1/3 of the time (just as did Asch’s subjects). 1950’s vs. 2000’s???? • Even though we might expect that people conformed more in the 1950’s, our study found that Asch’s findings still hold true today. People still are influenced by and conform to groups. Social Roles • Thus far, we’ve been talking about conformity. Another type of social influence are social roles. • Social Roles=patterns of behavior expected in certain positions • For example, there are social roles associated with being a student, a teacher, a mother, a son, a police officer, a doctor, a prison guard. • How much do social roles govern our behavior? Social Roles • In the 1970’s, Philip Zimbardo studied social roles in an experiment now known as the Stanford prison study. • Watch the video clip on the next slide to learn more about Zimbardo’s study. This clip includes archival footage (video taken during the actual experiment) • The narrator is Zimbardo himself. (You’ve seen him before--he also narrated the sensation & perception video that we watched!) Click Here To View Video Questions for you to ask yourself • How do you imagine the experiment would have impacted you if you were a subject in the experiment? – How would you have felt if you were a prisoner? – If you were a guard? – What kind of guard would you have been? – What kind of prisoner? Impact of the experiment • View the video footage on the next slide of two participants in the study discussing their reactions with one another Click Here To View Video Impact of the experiment • The original plan had been for the experiment to continue for several weeks, but as the film noted, the study was discontinued after 6 days because of concerns re: how the subjects were responding. • Once at a conference where I heard Zimbardo presenting, he talked about his prison study. He said that in the course of the study, he lost all perspective because of his own social role as ―prison warden.‖ He said that the reason he ended up calling the experiment off is because he was talking with the woman he was dating & telling her about the experiment & SHE told him it had gotten out of hand. Without her reaction, he said he may not have realized that that was the case because he was so caught up in his role as ―warden Note that this experiment used controlled experimental design… • Subjects were RANDOMLY assigned to be guards & others to be prisoners • Do you know why this matters? How would things have been different if students were asked to volunteer to either be prisoners or to be guards? (In other words, how would this change in the research method change the meaning of the results?) Random Assignment • If you still aren’t sure why the results of this study should be interpreted differently if instead of random assignment subjects could volunteer to be either prisoners & guards, then consider the following hints… – If subjects volunteer to be prisoners or guards rather than being randomly assigned, then this is not a controlled experimental design. It is more like a quasi-experimental design. What difference might this make? What extraneous variables might create a viable alternative explanation? Importance of Random Assignment to the Zimbardo experiment…. • If subjects volunteer, the extraneous variable of the pre-existing PERSONALITY of the subjects may explain the results. • In a controlled experimental design (where subjects are randomly assigned to groups), the personality of the subjects BEFORE THE EXPERIMENT began cannot explain their behavior in the experiment. Do you understand why or why not? If not, talk to your classmates or ask me in our next class. Questions to consider about the experiment…. • Does this experiment convince you that social roles have a big impact on our behavior? • Do you believe that there are some situations in which social roles play an even bigger role in determining behavior than does an individual’s personality? If so, can you really know how you would have behaved? In the group demonstration in class, in Asch’s study & in Zimbardo’s study, there was no real ―authority‖ to which people were responding. If there was an ―authority‖ at all, it was simply the group or what everyone else is doing or the expectation of those in certain roles…. Milgram’s study of ―obedience to authority” • In contrast, a study by Stanley Milgram specifically looked at how cooperative people are willing to be when responding to the request of an authority. • At the time that Milgram designed his study, a famous former Nazi was on trial and using the defense that he was just obeying orders. Milgram wanted to see if there was a certain personality that would be more willing to comply with orders from an authority. Milgram study • Milgram wondered if certain types of governments might foster be more willing to result in people having authoritarian personalities—a type of personality he felt was more willing to obey authority. So his plan was to do an experiment here in the U.S. and then do the same experiment in Germany. He expected that there would be much lower levels of obedience in the U.S. than in Germany • Here’s what Milgram did…. Milgram study • Milgram recruited subjects by a newspaper ad asking for people willing to participate in an experiment on learning. The participants were paid for their time. • When subjects arrived, they arrived at the same time as another person who posed as a subject but who was actually a confederate of the experimenter. (Remember confederates behave in the way that they are directed to behave by the experimenter.) Milgram study • The subject & the confederate were told that they were to participate in an experiment examining the effect of punishment on learning. One of them would serve as the ―teacher‖ and the other as the ―learner.‖ • The confederate was always assigned to be ―learner‖ and the subject always assigned to be the ―teacher.‖ • The subject who was to serve as teacher was to read a list of paired words (e.g., boy—automobile; house—dolphin; peace—ketchup). The learner was to try to memorize this list. Milgram study • The teacher and learner would be in different rooms communicating by intercom. The learner would be hooked up to a device that would shock him (it was always the same ―learner‖ and it was always a man). The teacher would be in a separate room in front of a panel with a series of switches, each of which when thrown would deliver a different voltage of shock (from 15 volts to 450 volts) to the learner. Milgram study • The teacher was told to read the list of paired words to the learner, and then read the first word in each pair, 4 choices (one of which was the right answer) and then the learner would indicate which of the four answers was correct. • The teacher was told that he was to flip a switch to deliver a shock to the learner whenever the learner got an answer wrong; with each wrong answer, he should progress to the next highest voltage level. Milgram study • To make sure that the teacher believed that the learner was actually receiving a shock, he was taken into the learner’s room, hooked up and given a small electrical current. • The experimenter applied electrode past onto the arms of the learner to ―avoid blisters & burns.‖ The teacher & ―learner‖ were told that the shocks might become extremely painful but would ―cause no permanent tissue damage‖ Milgram study • In actuality, the learner (again, the same confederate working with Milgram) never received any shocks. • The learner followed a script which told him what to answer and how to respond to the shock. • In the next video clip, you’ll see some archival footage from the experiment and will, for example, hear the learner crying out & asking to be let out of the experiment. He is following a script in his responses. A few more comments before you watch the video… • If the teacher protested and didn’t want to continue, the ―experimenter‖ also followed a script to guide them in responding. They experimenter said things like: ―please continue,‖ ―the experiment requires that you continue,‖ ―It is absolutely essential that you continue,‖ and eventually ―You have no other choice, you must go on.‖ However the experimenter never used any force beyond these verbal prompts to force the teacher to continue. Before you watch, think about how you think people will respond to this situation…. • Before he carried out his experiment, Milgram asked several psychiatrists to predict how many subjects would comply with the experiment & shock the learners • They predicted that only 1% would go to the highest voltage. • What do you think happened? Watch the video on the next slide to find out. Click Here To View Video Milgram’s results • To his surprise, Milgram found that a high percentage of people (over 60% of subjects) obeyed the experimenter even to the point of going to the highest voltage level • You can refer to Figure 44.2 on p. 611 of your text for more info re: the obedience rates. • Those who did resist most commonly did so early on. Milgram’s results • In a series of follow-up studies, Milgram & his associates varied the details of the study to see how this would affect rates of obedience. • Here’s what they found… • Refer to the scale on the vertical y axis to determine the % of subjects who obeyed in administering shocks in the various situations. Things to notice about the previous chart…. • Obedience is higher when a peer first models obedience, when the subject is only expected to assist another person who actually administers the shock or when the victim (i.e., ―learner‖) is physically remote • Some of the things that decrease obedience are when the subject sees another person refusing to obey or when two authorities give contradictory commands. Some observations…. • The Asch, Zimbardo & Milgram studies all demonstrate the impact of situation on our behavior—how strong it’s influence can be. • Milgram’s & Asch’s study also demonstrated that subject exhibit less conformity & obedience when others were also modeling willingness to disagree & refuse to participate. So one person who disagrees with an incorrect group decision or resists an inappropriate order or an injustice can make a big difference! Questions to ask yourself… • Are you surprised to find how many people were willing to obey the experimenter in this study? Why or why not? • Some people have criticized the Milgram study. They have argued that it was unethical to deceive subjects in this manner, and they feel that the study never should have been done. What do you think? Reflection/Discussion Questions – Do these experiments convince you that social forces have a big impact on our behavior? – Do you believe that there are some situations in which social forces play more of a role in determining a person’s behavior than does that individual’s personality? – Can you really know how you would have behaved in the situations studied in these experiments?
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