Theories of Power and Conformity

People are cultural beings, who like to play by the rules, therefore Social Impact, Social Power, Behavior to Specialist and Conformity is one of the very most effective ways of changing someone's behaviour. However, learning this topic empirically contributes to ethical problems. Discuss.

Over the years, many reports have been completed by interpersonal psychologists whose main aim is to understand behavior in a public context and also to further go through the ways in which this can influence a person's behavior. There are numerous effective means of changing a person's behaviour, such as Sociable Influence, Social Power, Obedience to Authority and Conformity. Which, have been studied and effectively used, in demonstrating how other folks can impact our behavior. This area of research, however, does not come without its criticisms. Ethical rules such as prepared consent and the utilization of deception have been reviewed and debated over time. This essay can look at different means of changing someone's behavior and discuss a few of the ethical problems which might arise.

Social facilitation is one such effective way of changing a person's behaviour. This is an activity which is increased (or facilitated) when being seen by other folks. The initial known published research into this area of review was conducted by Norman Triplett in 1898. Triplett mentioned that when in the occurrence of other cyclists, bike racers tended to increase their performance, leading to faster competition times. This type of public facilitation is often referred to as audience effects. Studies also show that when we succeed known tasks in the presence of others, we perform better. There is certainly, however, a negative area to audience effects. Pessin (1935) conducted a report which required several students to learn a list of nonsense syllables under two conditions. The first condition of learning was together and the second was whilst in the occurrence of others. Pessin's results exhibited that the students who learnt the words by themselves needed an average of 9. 85 studies whereas the students who learned the list in the existence of others needed an average of 11. 25 trials. It was also discovered that the amount of problems made was higher for the group who learnt in the presence of others. From these results, we can conclude that completion of a favorite task is increased when being noticed by others but, on the negative side, the training of a completely new job is impaired when in the occurrence of others.

The second type of cultural facilitation to consider is co-action effects. This is actually the effect on a person's process performance when in the occurrence of other individuals doing the same activity. Once more much like audience effects, with regards to the nature of the task, the effect on performance may maintain positivity or negative. Research into this area commenced in the 1920's when public scientists studied family pets to start to see the ramifications of co-action. Chen (1937) conducted an experiment which involved observing ants building a nest. The results revealed that when there is more than one ant mixed up in building of the nest, each individual ant's working capacity doubled. When the extra ants were removed, the working capacity of the original ant returned on track and there is no lasting impact. This experiment confirms that being with co-workers helps the working in the same way as seen with the audience results. In addition, it was also thought that, as co-action produces the same results as with audience effects, then co-actions results would also inhibit the learning of new skills when in the presences of others.

In everyday living we often conform by altering our actions or opinions so that they participate in those of other folks in a group. This is known as conformity and can be explained as 'changing one's beliefs or behaviour because of real or imagined group pressure'. One of the first studies into conformity was conducted by Sherif (1935). His test contains a visual illusion when a stationery dot of light would appear to move when shown in a very dark room. Members were asked how far they thought the light shifted and those who witnessed it whilst on their own gave estimates between 2 and 25cm. Then your participants discovered the light again with two others and over some trials, estimated in public what lengths they thought the light transferred. The quotes became closer and a group norm surfaced. Sherif's research did get some criticism. First of all, it was said that the members could not be classed as a group because that they had no relationship with one another and, in addition, several participants reported later that they did not feel inspired by the other individuals estimates and they were simply attempting to work out the actual appropriate answer. Soloman Asch mentioned that they conformed to a group norm since they didn't know the correct answer.

Asch (1951) used on by conducting further experiments into conformity. He wished to know whether an individual would conform to the group even though they realized that the answer they were offering was incorrect. His experiment contains 6 to 9 people in a group. All but one of the group was pretending to be part of the test. Asch informed them he was evaluating visual notion and confirmed the group participants lines of different measures. Each person had to answer which collection they presumed was the same size as the test brand. The main one participant was the previous person to answer in the experiment. Asch discovered that when part of the group 25% of the actual members conformed to the rest of the group whereas in the control tests when these were tested alone, very few wrong answers received. Overall, during the tests, 75% of members conformed to the wrong answer at least once. When interviewed after the experiment, most individuals said that they knew they were offering the wrong answer but didn't wish to stick out from the group. This technique of experimentation has been criticised for several reasons. Not merely was it costly and a slow-moving process but, more importantly, it contravenes ethical rules by deceiving the individuals and also triggering them some distress through shame and dilemma.

Crutchfield (1954) went on to conduct further experiments into conformity. His experiment was conducted with individuals in private to be able to avoid any stress from embarrassment. Members sat in a booth with a row of lamps before them. Each of the lights was intended to show the answers others got given to the same question. Members provided answers by pressing a button. This method of experimentation was considerably faster and cheaper than that conducted by Asch. Crutchfield found similar results to that of Asch and he also noticed that whilst some members were very conforming, others could also be very independent. Being a follow up he gave his members personality and IQ lab tests and out of this he found that those who conformed more were also much more likely to most probably to effect of others and less intellectually proficient. The individual variances found may help to describe the dissimilarities in levels of conformity which both Asch and Crutchfield found.

Research into conformity has fulfilled much criticism. The environment, for example, where the tests have been conducted, is artificial and the groups were also artificially created. Real-life conformity is approximately fitting along with others, and the teams to which we belong comprise of people we know. This was false in virtually any of the described laboratory experiments and, so, these can't be related to day-to-day conditions of conformity. The participants were also deceived as to what type of experiment they were taking part in and, regarding Asch's research some experienced stress through embarrassment and misunderstanding.

In compare to conformity, conformity is the next of a command line, order or an teaching which is distributed by an authority number. Obedience can be an extremely important factor in everyday activities; we obey requests because they gain us or because they seem to be fair, but would we consider obeying an order that was illegal, unjustified or immoral? A favorite psychological study to research this question was carried out by Stanley Milgram and, with it, came much criticism. Milgram wished to check out whether Germans were particularly obedient to specialist figures. He organized to first test this within an American environment before conducting further research in Germany and, so, advertised for males between your age group of 20 and 50 years to be a part of a report of learning at Yale University or college. The task for the test was that the participant was partnered with another person and 'drew straws' to choose who play the role of 'educator' and who be 'learner'. It was, in simple fact, already setup so the participant would be participating in the role of 'tutor' but this is not disclosed to the participant. The 'learner' was strapped into a couch with electrodes mounted on his forearms and the experimenter briefed the participant that he should read out word pairs which the 'learner' must bear in mind. If an incorrect answer was presented with by the 'learner' then your participant or 'educator' must issue them with an electric shock. There is no real electric shocking and the 'learner' would simply be operating for the benefit of the participant. A lot more wrong answers given, the higher the electric shock would be released. Before the experiment began, Milgram revealed a description of his review to psychiatrists and it was predicted that only 2% of individuals would issue the highest level electric shock. However, following experiment, it was decided a total of 65% participants did in reality issue the best level of shocking. Participants revealed severe distress during the experiment. Three had seizures; several challenged the experimenter and asked if the' learner' could be checked out. At the end of the experiment, all participants were debriefed. An explanation of the true reason for the study was given, they were properly launched to the 'learner' in order that they could see there is no damage really done to them plus they were also reassured that their behaviour during the test was correctly normal. Milgram argued that experiment was a robust exemplory case of the human trend to follow an authority amount even when they didn't feel that what these were doing was accurate. His studies created huge amounts appealing as well as matter. From an honest perspective, he received a great deal of criticism. The participants in the test were put under a great deal of stress, some even hurting health risks. Milgram retaliated to the by proclaiming that he had no idea how any one participant would respond. However, he performed still continue with the experiment even after he does become aware of the potential problems caused. Although, it's been clearly explained that participants could actually withdraw from the experiment anytime, they were not reminded of the reality when they protested and were advised that they 'experienced no choice but to continue'. Finally, it is fair to state that there is a huge amount of deception in the analysis. After being given a debrief, the majority of participants did state that they were happy they had took part and Milgram argued that this showed that the task was in fact acceptable.

Studies, such as those talked about in this article, have been met with many moral criticisms, regarding the way in which participants have been deceived and/or distressed when taking part. Certainly, all those studies considered herewith would not have been successful had the participants recognized the actual test taking place. The idea behind many of these studies was to research behaviour which could not have been done, got the participant recognized the 'real reason' for the test. Furthermore, the experiments were conducted 'to find out how behaviour is influenced' and an experimenter would have no way of knowing beforehand that a participant may experience problems as a result. We have to also consider that the studies discussed in this essay were designed throughout a time period when moral constraints weren't so restrictive which is credited to studies such as Milgram's, that psychologists have been able to establish ethical guidelines to protect individuals in future experiements.


  • http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Social_facilitationhtml [online] [Seen 04/02/2010]
  • http://books. yahoo. co. uk/books?id=1eFQG12WPw0C&pg=PA24&lpg=PA24&dq=pessin+1935&source=bl&ots=UK/ [online] [Accessed5/02/2010]
  • http://changingminds. org/explanations/theories/social_influence. htm [online] [Seen 04/02/2010]
  • Chen S. C (1937) Community modification of the experience of ants in nest building. Physiological Zoology, 10, 420-436
  • Gross Richard, Key Studies in Pyschology, Fifth Release, 2008
  • Pessin (1935) In E. C Simmel, R. A Hoppe and G. A Milton (eds), Social Facilitation and imitative behaviour. Boston: Allym and Bacon
  • Woods Barbara, Mindset First Second Model, 2006

Also We Can Offer!

Other services that we offer

If you don’t see the necessary subject, paper type, or topic in our list of available services and examples, don’t worry! We have a number of other academic disciplines to suit the needs of anyone who visits this website looking for help.

How to ...

We made your life easier with putting together a big number of articles and guidelines on how to plan and write different types of assignments (Essay, Research Paper, Dissertation etc)