This area of
the course on social influence, covers one of the most interesting and
controversial areas in Psychology. Hence the critical issue is the
ethics of using human participants in Psychological research.
between conformity and obedience:
along with the crowd/yielding to group pressure
act to please peers, friends, social group
figures: parents, teachers (no don’t laugh!), police, government
Why do we
accepted, liked or just to fit in or to avoid feeling silly
punishment or unpleasant consequences
and Minority influence
to remember at the outset that although psychological research generally
gets conformity a bad name without it Society would not function.
In the majority of real life situations conformity is seen as good!
Informational Social Influence
when there is no obvious right answer so we look to others for
information in order to be right.
Looking at the
people around you in a posh restaurant to see what knife and fork to use
Putting on car
lights in the evening when others start to do the same.
You all did
the experiment so you should be okay with the procedure.
sit in a darkened room and stare at a pinpoint of light that appears to
move, (try it sometime). They are asked to estimate the distance
it moves. Since the movement is only apparent the correct answer
is it doesn’t, but Sherif’s participants were obviously not aware of
this. Again, when put in rooms with others their guesses converge
towards a group norm.
In a follow up
experiment Sherif started the participants in groups were they agree on
an approximate answer. When individuals are taken from this group
and do the experiment on their own they stick to the answer agreed
this sort of research
is conformity when people are unsure of the answer since group norms
are very artificial so lack ecological validity. Can we generalise
from this to real life situations?
study does involve deception since participants are told the light is
moving when it isn’t, so there are ethical concerns.
everyday examples are for clarification. Avoid using them as
examples in your answers.
when we go along with the crowd because we want to be accepted or liked
or because we want to avoid embarrassment or being ridiculed.
because others in your peer group smoke
your friends in order to fit in or avoid bullying
conservatory built because the neighbours have
etc.): ‘The lines’
Again, you are
all aware of the procedure. Briefly stated: participants are
deceived into taking part in a study on visual perception. They
are seated at a desk with others that they believe to be fellow
participants but who in reality are in league with the researchers
(stooges or confederates). Lines are presented on a screen and
participants simply have to say which line (out of 3 possibilities, is
the same length as the target line). The stooges get the right
answer on the first two trials but then start to make deliberate
measured by counting the number of times the real participant conforms
when stooges give the wrong answer.
Changers: Solomon Asch
Easy peasie, describe the experiment as above. You could mention
some of the variations. You could also mention the pilot study
that Asch carried out first in which errors were only made on 3 trials
out of 720.
This one is more likely and also more troublesome. What you must
avoid doing is wasting time by describing the procedure.
To answer this
one, first of all mention Asch’s initial findings:
conformity rate was 32% (unless your surname is Eysenck or Flanagan, in
which case it’s 37%). This means that participants conformed on
32% of all trials.
within this there were substantial individual differences:
conformed on 100% of trials
13 out of the
original 50 never conformed at all
of conformity was a participant who conformed on 11 out of 12 trials
(must have felt a right plonker when he was debriefed!).
at least once.
what Asch found in his variations:
Description and conformity
(3%), two stooges (14%), three stooges (32%). Further
increases in group size do not increase conformity. With very
large groups conformity actually begins to fall!
If one of
stooges also disagrees with others conformity drops sharply
becomes more difficult conformity increases
Familiarity of task
less likely to conform when we are confident in our ability, e.g.
men are less likely to conform to incorrectly named tools than they
are to incorrectly named kitchen utensils. Clearly research of
your answers in continuous prose, not in tables like this.
(as it is often called)
is very artificial (it lacks ecological validity) in that participants
are being asked to conform when there is clearly a different and
obviously correct answer. In everyday life disagreements occur
over politics, religion, tastes etc., when correct answers are not
obvious, except we all agree that Kylie is lush!
Results do not
appear to be consistent over time. Later studies such as Perrin
and Spencer’s in Britain in the 1980s found much lower levels of
conformity. It has been suggested that Asch’s original was post
war when America was very wary of Communist take over when US citizens
were worried about being seen to be different for fear of incrimination.
Levels of conformity did fall in the late 60s when it was popular for
students in particular to protest against the Vietnam War, showing low
levels of conformity.
The study is
androcentric. Only male participants took part.
were deceived so were unable to give their informed consent. Note:
whenever stooges are used there is always deception.
were clearly stressed and some must have been embarrassed by the
procedure and suffered some loss of self esteem once they had been
informed that it had all been a big con. This all constitutes
(1955): ‘The question booth.’
thought Asch’s experiment was far too expensive, time consuming and
inefficient. Lots of stooges were required to test each
participant. So he devised a method of testing lots of
participants quickly and cheaply. They were sat in cubicles and
questions projected onto a screen. In one corner were the answers
given by other participants. In fact these were made up and often
wrong. Conformity was measured by the number of times participants
would go along with these incorrect answers.
question used: ‘The life expectancy of the average US male is 25.’
answer true or false. Since the screen indicates that the majority
have answered ‘true’ many of the real participants do the same. In
fact Crutchfield found about the same level of conformity as Asch; 30%.
mentioning in an appropriate part c. question is the information
Crutchfield found out about the personalities of conformist individuals
by administering a personality test after the procedure. According
to this, conformist people tend to be: ‘intellectually less effective’,
submissive, inhibited, have feelings of inferiority and have less mature
Note: one of
the questions asked by Crutchfield was; ‘true’ or ‘false’, ‘U.S males
sleep 4 to 5 hours a night and eat 6 meals a day.’ Now that one I
(or conforming to social roles and expectations)
because we learn expectations of how we should behave in certain
situations and then conform to these expectations when that situation
full of ourselves when dressed in evening wear such as a Tuxedo.
Sorry this is the best I can do!
Stanford prison simulation (1973)
Won't insult your intelligence here!
Again, in the
unlikely event that the question asks for a description of the study,
assume its party time but try to stick to the key details such as the
way the guards were empowered by their dress (khaki uniform, dark
glasses etc.), and the way the prisoners were humiliated by being strip
In the more
likely case of the question asking for findings:
effects on the prisoners who showed signs of ‘Pathological prisoner
syndrome’ in which disbelief was followed by an attempt at rebellion
and then by very negative emotions and behaviours such as apathy and
excessive obedience. Many showed signs of depression such as
crying and some had fits of rage. Zimbardo put these effects down
to depersonalisation or deindividuation due to loss of personal identity
and lack of control.
the effects on the guards who conversely showed the ‘Pathology of
power.’ They clearly enjoyed their role; some even worked
unpaid overtime and were disappointed when the experiment was stopped.
Many abused their power refusing prisoner’s food and toilet visits,
removing their bedding etc. Punishment was handed out with little
justification. Most notable was the way in which the ‘good guards’
never questioned the actions of the ‘bad guards.’
was a role play so it lacks realism with participants behaving as they
think they should behave. However, there is evidence for the
guards not just simply role playing, for example their brutal behaviour
wasn’t there at the start but developed over the first few days and they
did not play up to the cameras as might be expected. In fact their
behaviour was worse when they knew they weren’t being observed.
obtained in advance and participants were told the nature of the
participants were not told that they would be arrested by real police
officers and strip searched.
withdraw at best appears dubious.
Zimbardo claims they were free to leave, and indeed some did, word got
round the prisoners that this was not he case.
were clearly subjected to physical and psychological harm.
still a debate as to whether the experiment should have been stopped
sooner, which brings into question Zimbardo’s dual role as researcher
and self appointed ‘prison governor.’
defence of Zimbardo you can mention the therapeutic debrief given to all
those who took part.
So far in all
of the studies considered such as Asch etc., a majority have had
influence over a minority, such as six stooges influencing one
participant. However, in real life if this were always the case,
and the minority always went along with the majority, there would be no
change in Society. For change in ideas, religions, politics etc.
there are times when a minority of people with different views have to
exert their influence on the rest of us. This so called minority
influence tends to be a slow process, but it does bring about a change
both in public and privately held opinions.
suffragette movement changing attitudes towards women’s rights,
Galileo’s ideas on planetary movements, the Nazi’s reign in Germany etc…
(1969): ‘calling a blue slide green’
emphasise enough how important it is to remember this study, ‘cos
‘minority influence’ is a likely question and this is the only study to
Groups of six
participants are presented with blue slides varying in intensity.
Participants have to say what colour the slides are. Two of the
participants are stooges and these answer in one of two ways:
say the slides are green
They say the
slides are green on two thirds of occasions.
stooges say ‘green’ every time: 8% of the majority agree
stooges are less consistent this falls to 1%
vital for minority influence to occur.
Nemeth et al (1974) agree that consistency is important but is not
always enough in itself. They carried out a variation on the
procedure but allowed the participants to answer with a combination of
colours. This time there were three conditions:
randomly answer ‘green’ on half of the trials and ‘blue-green’ on the
answer ‘green’ to the brighter slides and ‘green-blue’ to the darker
answer ‘green’ on every trial.
Moscovici et al to be correct, we would expect the third condition, in
which the stooges are consistent to have the greatest influence on the
minority. However this was not the case.
Findings and conclusions:
were most influenced by condition 2 since it is seen as flexible.
21% of participants were influenced by the minority in this condition.
In the other
two conditions few participants were influenced. In the first
there is lack of consistency, (supporting Moscovici’s findings), and in
the third there is a total lack of flexibility and no attempt for the
stooges to use the more complex descriptions allowed.
concluded that minorities are more likely to be influential if they are
consistent but not to the point of being dogmatic.
Hogg & Vaughan
(1995) claim that the following are important for minorities to be
if the minority seem to be acting on principle rather than out of self
if the minority have had to make sacrifices to maintain their position
characteristics with the majority:
if the minority are similar in age, race, social class etc.
if the views of the minority are in keeping with social trends.
For example current trends in Western Society are tolerance and
liberalisation. Therefore calls by a minority for equal rights for
a minority group are more likely to meet with acceptance.
Evaluation of Moscovici experiment:
uses stooges so deception is employed. Whenever there is deception
consent cannot be informed.
ecological validity since it is a very trivial exercise, i.e. a silly
disagreement over a slide that is very obviously blue. This is not
the sort of thing we normally disagree over, so does it tell us anything
about minority influence in real life when very weighty matters of
principle tend to be involved.
conformity and minority influence
phenomena do seem to contradict one another. Indeed when Moscovici
met Solomon Asch at a conference he reportedly felt embarrassed and
concerned that Asch would be critical of his findings. In fact
Asch was very enthusiastic about the research on minority influence
since he thought it helped to redress the balance that his research had
tipped towards conformity. Social impact theory proposed by Latane
& Wolf (1981), is seen as one way of being able to explain both majority
influence (conformity) and minority influence.
proposes that a person’s behaviour can be predicted in terms of three
factors: I’ll use the Iraqi debate as a contemporary example:
A message is
stronger if it is repeated by a lot of people who are all in agreement.
This equates to Moscovici’s ‘consistency.’ You are more likely to
be convinced that War on Iraq is right if all of your friends are in
will be strengthened if the person doing the convincing is an expert in
the field. A person who has lived under the Saddam Regime is
likely to be more convincing than a politician who has never visited the
will have more impact if it comes from friends rather than a strangers.
Your friend trying to convince you of the need for war is going to have
more impact than a bloke you’ve just met in the pub.
that may affect conformity
study by Asch was carried out in 1950s USA. America was a very
paranoid society, fearful of Communist take over and under the grip of
McCartyism in which the government and other institutions in positions
of influence were being purged of possible ‘Commies.’ People were
afraid of appearing different or stepping out of line, so it is not
surprising that Asch found such levels of conformity.
by Perrin & Spencer have found much lower levels of conformity.
However, some of these studies were on engineering students at a British
University. Since they were experts on accurate measurement of
length it isn’t surprising that they failed to conform. Out of
several hundred trials Perrin & Spencer found only one incidence of
conformity, despite the students being ‘very puzzled’ by the stooges’
When the study
was carried out on young men on probation the rate of conformity was
similar to those reported by Asch.
If we consider
culture in broader terms rather than narrow nationalistic ways, we can
break societies into two broad kinds:
Individualistic: for example Western Societies were the need to be
independent and self sufficient is taught as the ideal.
Collectivistic: for example Asian and some African cultures were the
needs of the family and larger social group are seen as more important.
Smith & Bond
(1993) carried out a meta-analysis (see your notes on ‘validity’ in
Research Methods), and found that collectivist societies tend to be more
conformist. Not surprising since they rely on each other to a much
greater extent than selfish individuals in the West.
notes on the Temmi and Eskimos for similar example.
This is loss
of self identity and was evident in Zimbardo’s Prison Simulation when
the guards wore dark, reflective glasses.
thought it was responsible for the behaviour he observed in a study he
carried out in 1969. He found that female participants were more
likely to administer electric shocks to other women if they were wearing
lab coats and hoods that partly covered their faces.
Downing (1979) disagreed with Zimbardo. They felt that Zimbardo’s
participants were dressed like the Klu Klux Klan and were behaving
accordingly, i.e. conforming to expectations. They got
participants to dress as nurses and found that despite the
deindividuation that resulted that participants were less likely to
deliver shocks. They were conforming to the caring image of
intelligence and gender
found to be less conformist. This could be due to higher
intelligence or to education that teaches independent thought and
People who are
measured high in ‘desire for personal control’ are less conformist than
those measured lower.
Eagly & Carli
(1981) found that women tend to be more conformist than men.
Need to be
liked or accepted
able to reward
can arise between our own and other’s opinions
Informational Social Influence
Need to be
information to reduce our uncertainty
others for guidance
to Kelman (1958) there are three types of conformity:
Compliance: you go along with the crowd and publicly agree with
them. However, internally you maintain your original views.
So using the S club analogy, you might outwardly conform and pretend
to love the Life and works of this revered group in order to impress
a fan, however, deep down inside you still consider their music to
be vacuous, plagiaristic and infantile. Normative SI leads to
Internalisation: occurs when people take on the views of others
both publicly and privately. For example a person confused by
the meaning of life may look to others for guidance. A passing
cult may spot the person and tell them that their leader was visited
by Aliens many years ago and they have been told to go out and clone
humans to be like their Alien masters. Since this helps to
reduce the person’s uncertainty about life they are taken in by
these teachings, hook, line and sinker, and adopt their views both
publicly, but more importantly inwardly too. (Again not a good
one to use just in case the marker belongs to the Raelian Movement).
Identification: occurs when a person conforms to the role that
society expects them to play. As with compliance there does
not have to be change in private opinion. The classic example
here obviously is Zimbardo.
The work on
obedience stemmed from Nazi atrocities during WW 2. It was widely
believed that Hitler himself was an evil genius, but he relied on the
co-operation of millions of people to carry out his plans, including
‘the final solution.’
Hannah Arendt (1963) published her account of the trial of Adolf Eichmann
titled ‘A Report on the banality of evil.’ Eichmann was the
mastermind of the ‘final solution’ that involved using gas chambers in
the death camps. In her account Arendt described Eichmann as ‘a
dull, uninspired, unaggressive bureaucrat who saw himself as a cog in
She concludes that the Nazis were mostly just ordinary people following
orders. Most controversially she believed that the rest of us
would behave in a similar way, given a similar set of circumstances.
Milgram (1974) wrote ‘Gas chambers were built, death camps were guarded,
daily quotas of corpses were produced with the same efficiency as the
manufacture of appliances.’
In the 1960s
it was still comforting to see the Germans as somehow a race apart,
Milgram set out to show this.
You are all
aware of the study. The danger is that in any question on Milgram
you will regurgitate the procedure. Read the question and tailor
your answer to suit. If it asks for findings concentrate on
the percentages and the variations such as how close the ‘teacher’
stands to the ‘learner’ etc.
· An advertisement is placed in a local paper. Participants
are paid $4.50 for taking part. (Issue of payment is
Experiment is supposed to be on learning (deception).
Participant introduced to ‘Mr. Wallace’ (a harmless looking accountant
in his 50’s, with a dickey ticker). Mr Wallace was in fact a
stooge or confederate. (More deception).
Mr. Wallace and the participant draw lots to see who will be teacher and
learner. The real participant always becomes the ‘teacher.’
Mr. Wallace goes next door.
Participant is shown the equipment, and procedure is explained.
Mr. Wallace will be asked a series of questions.
An incorrect answer will result in an electric shock, delivered by the
The teacher is given a 45V shock to show that the equipment is real.
(This is the only shock used in the experiment!!!!!).
sits in an adjoining room with the experimenter.
Control panel has switches, 15V to 450V, (labelled slight shock to
Danger severe shock and XXX).
Each incorrect answer gets a shock 15V higher than the last.
The experimenter encourages the teacher with various instructions.
As the experiment proceeds Mr Wallace is heard to make various noises:
75V, 90V and 105V a
about the pain
get me out of here/’
180V ‘I can’t stand
300V he shouts
that he will answer no more questions.
onwards there is silence
How it was done
Teacher and learner
in adjacent rooms
Teacher 1 metre from
Teacher has to push
learner’s hand onto electrodes
in a run down office
Experimenter has to
leave and phones instructions in.
A stooge disagrees
with the experimenter
A stooge gives the
shocks when the ‘teacher’ says so.
shocks were ever received!!!
findings have been confirmed by others and there appear to be few sex
differences. Although Milgram’s original study was only carried
out on men others have shown the same effect with women participants.
The experiment has also been replicated around the World. Below
are some of the findings.
Barley & McGuinness
Shanab & Yahya
Kilham & Mann (1974)
Ancona & Pareyson
Evaluation of the
does tend to confirm Milgram’s original findings. Most of the
studies do suggest very high levels of obedience. However, it is
difficult to make comparisons between studies since there are
differences in their methodologies.
studies have used different populations, i.e. some have used students,
others the general population.
a mild mannered Mr. Wallace with a dickey ticker. In the
Australian study a female student replaced him.
scenarios the ‘learner‘ was male, in the Australian she wasn’t.
Italian study the maximum shock was 330 Volts.
The study that
does stand out is the Australian study but this was women giving shocks
to other women!
traditional to split this into two main sections:
Methodology or validity
Experimental (or internal) Validity
By now you
should know what validity means! Did the participants taking part
in the study actually believe that they were administering electric
shocks to Mr Wallace? Orne & Holland (1968) make a number of
claims, each of which is refuted by Milgram:
Orne & Holland's
realised that the set up was a sham.
70% of participants
in later studies report afterwards that they thought it was genuine.
obeyed because of the lab conditions, simply doing as was expected
This criticism seems
to be missing the point. Milgram was trying to show that the
situations we find ourselves in could cause obedience.
Obedience was due to
payment in advance and the idea that a contract had been entered
This does happen in
everyday life. Presumably the SS were paid for their services
in WW II.
Ecological (or external) Validity
Can the results
of the experiment be generalised to situations outside of the laboratory
setting? Since the person in the white lab coat was an authority
figure, then Milgram believes that it does. After all he was
trying to show that we do obey such figures in real life.
studies that appear to support Milgram:
Sheridan & King
(1972) carried out a similar procedure but used a puppy as the
‘learner.’ The puppy carried out a learning exercise and each time
it made a mistake it would receive an electric shock.
Participants, acting as the teacher, were led to believe that the shocks
were becoming increasingly severe, as in Milgram’s original procedure.
In fact the puppy was getting a small shock each time, just enough to
make it jump and show obvious signs of receiving a shock.
Eventually the puppy receives an anaesthetic to put it to sleep, and the
participants think they’ve killed it. Most participants continue
to give it electric shocks. The participants can be in n doubt
that the puppy is receiving the shocks, so answering Orne & Holland’s
(1966) set up an experiment (natural, field or quasi?), in which a
nurse receives instructions over the phone, from a Dr Smith, to
administer 20mg of a drug Astroten to a patient Mr. Jones. This
instruction breaches three rules:
The nurse did not know
The nurse did not
receive written authority
20mg was twice the
maximum dose suggested on the bottle.
21 out of 22 nurses were prepared to administer the drug. Since
this is a natural setting, it does have ecological validity, and as such
is telling us something about obedience in real life.
reference, there are clearly ethical problems with the study:
a. Nurses were deceived
b. There was no consent
No right to withdraw.
(1974). People in the street are asked to pick up a piece of
litter or stand on the other side of a bus stop etc. The person
doing the asking is dressed either as a milkman, a civilian or a guard.
People were more likely to obey the guard, showing, presumably, the
power of uniform or of perceived legitimate authority.
Ethics of Milgram
Measures were not
taken to protect participants from physical or psychological harm
The results were
unexpected. Before starting Milgram asked professionals for
their opinions. Most thought the teacher would stop when the
The right to
withdraw from the experiment was not made clear to participants.
Use of phrases such
as ‘You have no choice, you must go on,’ would suggest participants
did not have a choice.
that they did have the right to withdraw, in fact, some did.
should have been stopped.
Milgram did not
believe the distress caused was sufficient to warrant stopping!
participants gave their consent to take part, this was not informed
since they did not know the purpose of the study or what it would
entail. Deception was used.
Milgram refers to
deception as ‘technical illusions.’ Without them the
experiment would have been meaningless.
worth making in an essay on ethics of Milgram.
defence centres on the debrief that all participants received
afterwards. During this participants were reassured about their
They were reunited with
an intact Mr Wallace
They were assured that
no shocks had been given
They were assured that
their behaviour was normal. (Picture the scene, 'its okay Mr
Smith, we all have maniacal, homicidal tendencies and feel the need to
electrocute to death mild mannered accountants with dickey tickers!').
They all received a full
report of the procedure and findings
They were all sent a
questionnaire: a staggeringly high 92% returned the questionnaire.
84% were glad or very
glad that they'd taken part.
74% claimed that they'd
learned something of 'personal importance.'
Only 2% were sorry or
very sorry that they'd taken part.
One year later,
40 of the participants were interviewed by a psychiatrist who concluded
that none of them had suffered long term harm.
psychologists are still uneasy about the procedure. Wrightman &
Deux (1979) say that Milgram reports with awe and relish the extreme
degrees of tension that his subjects experienced. For example:
they would 'sweat, stutter, tremble, groan, bite their lips and dig
their fingernails into their flesh. Full blown, uncontrollable
seizures were experienced by three subjects.'
It is also
worth mentioning that Milgram did not breach ethical guidelines, since
they did not exist at the time! In fact it was Milgram's study
that was largely responsible for the introduction of such codes of
Aronson (1988) says he asks his University students how many of them
would behave like Milgram's participants. Typically 1% believes
they would! This figure is the same as 1963, when, before
conducting his experiment, Milgram asked students and psychologists to
predict how many would deliver 450 Volts.
In 1965 Milgram
was awarded the prize for 'Contribution to Psychological Research' by
the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Psychology’s hall of fame (or hall of horrors!):
Psychological explanations of obedience
two psychological processes that may be involved in obedience to
innocuous enough question that has appeared a whopping three times in
the past few years. This suggests to me that it’s generally badly
answered and they will keep asking it to sort out the thoroughbreds from
the also-ran candidates. I think the problem with the question is
that students don’t get what its asking for. Faced with this
question do not fear; simply use two of the following explanations!
Society gives power or authority to
certain people that they are able to exercise over others. Obvious
examples include the police. Many examples are situation specific,
for examples teachers (supposedly) have authority in schools, traffic
wardens in parking areas, doctors over their patients etc. Hofling
(1966) and Bickman (1974) are examples of this. Respect for
authority, like this, clearly has its advantages in allowing for the
smooth running of a society, and its rules are hammered home in all of
us from a very early age. The danger comes when we blindly obey
such figures and as a result behave in an immoral way as a result.
This would help to explain some of the differences found in levels of
obedience between different countries. Some countries such as
Australia have a history of questioning authority whereas countries like
Germany teach their children from an early age to respect authority.
Milgram believed that we operate on
individuals, conscientious and aware of the consequences of our
individuals seeing ourselves as the puppets of others and no longer
responsible for our actions
behave as autonomous, but under certain circumstances we undergo
agentic shift and move to the agentic level. They are then
responsible only to the person giving the orders and their
responsibility to others disappears. He believed this explained
the behaviour of participants in his own studies, with the experimenter
being in charge during the agentic state. It would also explain
the behaviour of people like Eichmann who could switch from ordinary,
dull uninspired etc., to mastermind of the final solution.
believed this shift was possible because we are taught at an early age
to obey without question. Once in the agentic state, binding
keep us there:
Fear of being rude and
for example spoiling someone’s experiment.
Fear of increasing our
levels of anxiety by disobeying
Used by sales
people the World over and usually referred to as foot in the door.
Get people to make a small commitment, i.e. buy a small item or give a
small electric shock, and then build up to bigger, expensive items or
‘fatal’ shocks. Once we’ve agreed to a small concession, then in
principle it becomes more difficult to refuse a larger one.
plays a part. Some people are naturally more dominant whereas
others tend to be more passive. Moriarty (1975), (when he wasn’t
annoying Sherlock Holmes), described the passivity type who will endure
all kinds of unpleasantness, such as noisy neighbours, rather than
confront the problem.
In both conformity and obedience studies
many participants remain independent. In Milgram’s experiment 65%
obeyed, meaning that 35% did not, and in Asch’s study on conformity
participants remained independent on 68% of trials. 13 out of the
50 that took part in the original study failed to conform once!
If we see others behaving independently
then we are more likely to do the same. Asch’s conformity
rate of 32% fell to 5% if one of the stooges gave the correct answer on
Milgram’s obedience rate of 65% fell to
10% when two stooges acted as additional teachers and were prepared to
When Milgram moved his study to a less
prestigious setting, rates of obedience fell (i.e. rate of independence
desirability scale (Crowne & Marlow
Stang (1972) used this to show that
those who do not seek the
approval of others are more likely to remain independent. This is
like normative social influence in reverse.
When Crutchfield carried out his
conformity experiment he administered a questionnaire and found the
following personality types were most likely to conform:
‘Intellectually less effective,’
Having less mature social relationships,
Lower self esteem
Less leadership ability.
Others, however, have found little
evidence for a consistent personality type. Burger found that
those who scored high on personal control were less likely to conform to
what others thought was a funny cartoon.
3. Sex differences
Milgram found no sex differences in
obedience, but Kilham & Mann in an Aussie replication of the Milgram
procedure using female students found 90% independence (i.e. only 10%
4. Cultural differences
Berry (1966) found that Eskimos are far
more independent than other native groups, for example the Temmi of
Africa. (See later notes on socialisation for reasons).
Reasons for those remaining independent
in Asch’s study:
more certain we are, or the more expert we are in a particular area the
more likely we are to stick to our guns and not
conform to group pressure. There may be area were you feel yourself
to be particularly expert e.g. the hits of S Club or Blue.
Further examples are men who feel comfortable naming tools being
prepared not to conform when others mis-identify them, and women having
the confidence to do the same with kitchen utensils!
Simply the desire to want to remain independent. In Asch’s study
those that did this clearly felt uncomfortable and avoided eye contact
with the others.
just wanted to get on with the experiment.
Milgram’s participants refused to obey. Possible reasons for this:
One of Milgram’s participants refused because she’d lived in Nazi
Germany and had seen enough pain inflicted in her lifetime.
Milgram believed past memories had ‘woken’ her from her agentic state
Education. Gamson et al
(1982) were conducting a research study when one of the participants
became suspicious of the procedure and persuaded others to withdraw.
The participant had read about Milgram's research and questioned the
legitimacy of the experimenters. The person made use of their
(more of him next year) outlined a number of stages of moral reasoning
that we progress through. He found that people who have reached
the higher levels are more likely to disobey unreasonable demands and
question authority when it appears unjust.
Watching others disobey reminds us that we are able to do the same! For
example the variation on Milgram were stooges refuse to obey.
Knowledge of authority.
For example the one nurse out of 22 in Hofling’s study that knew the
rules and refused to obey instructions to administer the drug.