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An investigation into Normative Social Influence

Psychology Higher RI report


By Kaiynat Mahmood
Clydebank High School
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Table of Contents
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Abstract Page
Introd!ction Page "
Method Page #
Res!lts Page $
%isc!ssion Page &
Re'erences Page 11
Appendices Page 12
Abstract
(he aim o' this in)estigation is to st!dy con'ormity as normati)e social in'l!ence
related to an ambig!o!s task* i+e+ thro!gh carrying o!t a part,similar st!dy to -enness
.1&2/ !sing s0eets in a 1ar+ Pre)io!s research* s!ch as that by Asch.1&22/ and
-enness.1&2/* has 'o!nd that the participants' answers were influenced by the
group estimations, leading to the conclusion that peoples decisions are highly
influenced by exposure to the opinions of the majority.
The independent variable of this experiment was the estimation sheet, and
the dependent variable was the estimation of the participants. (he e3perimental
hypothesis is 4Participants in the e3perimental gro!p are more likely to pro)ide higher
estimates than participants in the control gro!p5 and the n!ll hypothesis o' this st!dy
is that manip!lation o' the independent )ariable .I6/ .estimate sheets/ 0ill not ha)e
an e''ect and that any estimate is simply d!e to chance+
(he method !sed 0as a lab e3periment 0ith an independent meas!res design+ The
participants were collected using an opportunity sample of [2! "#$"% year old
students within the school who had not studied psychology and were
instructed to provide an estimation of the number of sweets in the jar& they
were given " seconds. The first " participants were provided with an
estimation sheet with previously written estimations on it, and the latter " a
blan' sheet to write their estimations.
The results of this study showed the e3perimental gro!p displayed higher signs o'
con'ormity than the controlled gro!p* s!ggesting that participants are more like to
con'orm i' they are e3posed to the opinions o' the ma1ority+

Introduction
(his st!dy 0ill e3amine con'ormity in the area o' psychology kno0n as social
psychology+ Con'ormity is de'ined as a social in'l!ence7 depending on the sit!ation
and personality it can* at times* change mind,set* beha)io!r and belie's+ (his tends to
happen thro!gh In'ormational Social In'l!ence .Sheri'* 1&27 -enness* 1&2/+ (he
c!rrent st!dy 'oc!ses on a 'orm o' con'ormity kno0n as 8ormati)e Social In'l!ence
.Asch* 1&22/+ (his type o' con'ormity is most common in ma1ority sit!ations* gro!ps
o' 'riends and colleag!es* and this is called ma1ority in'l!ence and peer press!re
respecti)ely+ (he latter o' 0hich is 0here people con'orm to 9'it in: or a)oid ridic!le
.Card0ell* Clark and Meldr!m* 2;;</+
(here are t0o main types o' social in'l!ence= normati)e social in'l!ence* and
in'ormational social in'l!ence+ Con'ormity can be broken do0n into t0o di''erent
types* compliance and internalisation+ Compliance is the reaction 0hen a person acts
as i' they agree 0ith a gro!p o' people* b!t in reality they maintain their o0n belie's+
I' the person happened to gen!inely agree 0ith the gro!p* then the reaction 0o!ld be
called internalisation* as they ha)e internalised the gro!p:s belie's .>ross et al* 2;;2/+
?3amples o' social in'l!ence can be seen thro!gho!t o!r daily li)es , 'ollo0ing the
latest 'ashion trends to @'it in@* copying other people 0hen !sing p!blic transport i'
yo! do not kno0 0hat to do+ Classic st!dies 0hich s!pport the idea o' con'ormity are
Asch .1&22/* Sheri'* .1&2/ and -enness .1&22/+
In AschAs st!dy o' the 9Bpinions and Social Press!re: .1&22/* he aimed to 'ind o!t
ho0 people 0o!ld react or beha)e in gro!ps 0hen gi)en an !nambig!o!s task .a task
in 0hich it is not clear 0hat the correct ans0er is/+ He placed his participants in a
gro!p o' con'ederates 0ho had been brie'ed be'orehand to gi)e the same 0rong
ans0er* to see 0hether the participants 0o!ld con'orm or not+ 8ot only did Asch 'ind
that $C o' the ans0ers con'ormed to the ma1ority and that only 22C o' the
participants did not gi)e e)en one 0rong ans0er* b!t he also disco)ered a correlation
bet0een the siDe o' the gro!p and con'ormity7 (he larger the siDe o' the gro!p o'
con'ederates* the greater the n!mber o' participants s!b1ect to normati)e social
in'l!ence .Eilliamson* Card0ell and Flanagan* 2;;$/+
-enness .1&2/ also indicated that con'ormity e3ists 0ithin gro!ps+ In this e3periment*
the participants 0ere asked to g!ess the n!mber o' beans in a 1ar* and then 0ere p!t in
gro!ps to disc!ss the n!mber to pro)ide a gro!p estimate* 0hich pro)ided the option
to change their 'irst g!ess* the ma1ority 0ished to change their 'irst g!ess to a n!mber
closer to the gro!p estimate+ (his sho0ed that people are more likely to consider the
in'ormation o' the gro!p and to con'orm 0hen they ha)e been in'l!enced by the
ma1ority decision+
(hese st!dies make e)ident the link bet0een social press!re and con'ormity+ (he
pre)io!sly mentioned researches co!ld be criticised as they lack ecological )alidity
and are biased .e+g+ gender* c!lt!ral/+
(he aim o' this c!rrent in)estigation is to st!dy con'ormity as normati)e social
in'l!ence related to an ambig!o!s task* i+e+ thro!gh carrying o!t a part,similar st!dy
to -enness .1&2/ !sing s0eets in a 1ar+ (he c!rrent st!dy 0ill only incl!de the
"
estimate section and* d!e to time restrictions* 0ill not incl!de the disc!ssion section+
(his 0ill pro)ide a link bet0een past research and 0hether le)els o' con'ormity are
still apparent in the 21
st
cent!ry+
(he e3perimental hypothesis is one tailed= 4Participants in the e3perimental gro!p are
more likely to pro)ide higher estimates than participants in the control gro!p5+ (he
n!ll hypothesis o' this st!dy is that manip!lation o' the independent )ariable .I6/
.estimate sheets/ 0ill not ha)e an e''ect and that any estimate is simply d!e to chance+
2
Method
Design
This study itself was a laboratory experiment& it was conducted in a school
classroom as this allowed control of the variables and clear evidence of the
relationship between social pressure and conformity, for similar reasons, an
independent measures design was also selected. The whole experiment was
modelled on (enness )"*+2,.
-n order to investigate the effect of social pressure on groups of people, all of
the participants were instructed to provide an estimation of the number of
sweets in the jar. This was carried out by giving the first half of participants an
estimate sheet with previously written estimations on it, and the latter half a
blan' sheet to write their estimations. -t was predicted that the latter half
would show hardly any signs of conformity, whereas the others would conform
to what was previously written.
.s mentioned previously, the independent variable of this experiment was the
estimation sheet, and the dependent variable was the estimation of the
participants.
Sample/Participants
The participants were collected using an opportunity sample of [2! "#$"%
year old students within the school who had not studied psychology. The
participants were all given the same set of instructions, and tested in a similar
environment with similar conditions, i.e no noise, to allow for improved
concentration.

Materials
The materials re/uired for this experiment were a group of participants )an
even number of people to allow an accurate division into two groups,, a jar of
sweets )see appendix %,, a blan' sheet, an estimate sheet with previously
written estimations )see appendix 0,, a timer, a consent for, standardised
instructions )see appendix +,, a brief )see appendix 2, and debrief )see
appendix #, and a cloth to conceal the jar of sweets.
Procedure
The psychology class conducting the experiment was first as'ed by the
lecturer to estimate the number of sweets in the jar in order to see whether
the first participant would conform to their answers. .fterwards, preparation
for the experiment began and 2 students aged "# and over, who were
available at that moment, were collected and as'ed to participate 1 this too'
approximately " minutes.
The group of participants were briefed outside, and entered the classroom
one at a time. 2ach participant was as'ed to sign a consent form )see
appendix 3,, and then given " seconds to estimate the number of sweets in
a jar and write this estimation on the estimate sheet provided.
4or the first " participants, an estimate sheet with previously written
estimations were provided, and for the control group )see appendix 5,, a blan'
estimate sheet was provided so that they could not see what the other
participants had written.
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Results
The tables below display the results obtained by the experiment, as well as
the calculated mean, median and mode. The mean, median and mode are
calculated as they provide appropriate measures of the level of conformity
found in groups. The best out of the three of them is the mean as it uses all
the data to calculate an average.
Summary Table
The table below expresses the level of conformity in each condition 1
experimental and controlled conditions. -n the experimental condition,
estimate sheets with previously written estimates were provided& the
estimates were false. -n the controlled condition, a blan' estimate sheet was
provided, thus participants were unable to view the others estimations, and
could not show signs of conformity.
Experimental
Group
Controlled Group All Data
Totals 1"2#" 1;## 22;$
Mean 1"2# 1;#+# 1#1;+"
Median 1222 "1; $<
Mode ;;; 8GA ;;;
(here 0as no mode 'or the controlled gro!p* and this s!pports the e3perimental
hypothesis+
Graph
(he graphs belo0 portray the res!lts o' both the e3perimental and controlled gro!p+
?3perimental >ro!p=
$
Controlled >ro!p=
From these res!lts* it is e)ident that participants are more like to con'orm i' they are
e3posed to the opinions o' the ma1ority+ As the mean* median and mode is also m!ch
greater in the e3perimental gro!p than in the controlled gro!p it is clear that the le)el
o' con'ormity is m!ch higher in the e3perimental gro!p than in the controlled gro!p+
<
Discussion
Summary of Results and Relevance
4rom the results achieved by the experiment, it is evident that the
experimental hypothesis has been supported as the participants in the
experimental group did provide higher estimates than the participants in the
control group. The signs of conformity were /uite clearly seen through the
'mode' in the results table& the control group did not have any participant state
the same estimation as another. 6hereas, in the experimental group, more
than one participant gave 7+7 as an estimate. This suggests that the
participants in the experimental group had been loo'ing at the answers
provided before them, and had been influenced by these answers. The
majority of the answers in the experimental group were in the thousands $
again displaying that the participants were influenced by the larger
estimations given before, and so felt obliged to give a great estimation also.

The results of this experiment were similar to the (enness )"*+2, results,
where it was found that the participants' answers were influenced by the
group estimations. -n .sch's )"*00, study on conformity, it was discovered
that more answers conformed to the majority, again similar to the results
found in this variation of (enness's )"*00, study. This leads to the conclusion
that peoples decisions are highly influenced by exposure to the opinions of
the majority.
Evaluation of Method and Design
This particular study had a few limitations. .n ethical limitation was that some
of the participants felt stressed and nervous from being watched over by so
many psychology students $ they were not aware that they would be watched
over. This may have has an impact on their estimations& perhaps they were
unable to thin' clearly. -t would have been more considerate to the
participants if only a few psychology students remained in the classroom as
this would reduce pressure on the participant.

The environment in which this study was conducted was also a limitation $ the
noise levels were high due to the psychology students' discussion of the
results at the bac' as well $ it was not conducted in a professional manner or
in a natural environment. This could be improved by perhaps providing
headphones to the participant or again, by reducing the number of psychology
students watching over the participant.
This study also cannot be generalised as the small group of participants do
not represent the large population of the school and community, and the
participants were selected on the basis that they should be aged sixteen or
over, and a student from that school. 8ot everyone stays onto education after
the age of sixteen, therefore this study may not apply to them. . solution to
&
this would be to select a wide variety of participants including who have left
education etc.
Implications and Further Research
The implications of this study could be applied to schools for conducting
behaviour in class. The findings of this study imply that people are more li'ely
to conform when exposed to the opinions of the majority. Teachers may use
this information when as'ing /uestions to their class 1 rather than as'ing
them all a /uestion, the teacher could as' them individually so that the pupils
do not feel pressured in anyway. 4or example, as'ing them to write their
answer or response on a blan' sheet, similar to that of the control group in
this study.
Schools may also !se this in'ormation to de)elop or change their policies+ Ehen
creating or altering policies* they may take into acco!nt the opinion o' the ma1ority H
0ho and ho0 many st!dentsGteaches 0ill 'ollo0 it thro!ghI I' many more st!dents
and teachers 'ollo0 the school policy* then the rest o' the school comm!nity may also
'eel in'l!enced to do so+
F!rther research* as mentioned pre)io!sly* sho!ld incl!de a wide variety of
participants including who have left education etc. 9ut it could also include
participants with differing age groups, ethnicity, religious groups:beliefs and
cultures or perhaps a study which focuses on conformity in gender specific
groups.
Conclusion
(his st!dy had pro)en tr!e the e3perimental hypothesis as the participants in the
e3perimental gro!p did pro)ide higher estimates than the participants in the control
gro!p+
1;
References
Asch* S+ .1&22/+ Bpinions and Social Press!re+ Scientific American+ .1&/* 1,2+
>ross* R* .2;;2/+ Psychology: A New Introduction for A Je)el+ .2
nd
?dition/+ Jondon=
Hodder Arnold+
-enness* A+ .1&2/+ (he role o' disc!ssion in changing opinion regarding matter o'
'act+ Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology* .2$/* 2$&,2&#+
Sheri'* M+ .1&2/+ A St!dy o' Social Factors in Perception+ Archives of Psychology*
.2$/* 1<$+
Eilliamson* M+* Card0ell* M+* and Flanagan* C+ .2;;$/+ Higher Psychology+ Jondon=
8elson (hornes+
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Appendix 1
Results per participant
Participant Control Group Experimental Group
1
2

"
2
#
$
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&
1;
12
Appendix 2:
Psychology Report: rie!+
(he c!rrent psychology e3periment is based on )is!al perception+ Ko! 0ill be asked
to estimate the n!mber o' ob1ects in a transparent glass 1ar+ (he e3periment 0ill take
no more than 2 min!tes and yo! 0ill be !nder no physical or emotional distress or
harm+ Ko! are allo0ed to lea)e the e3periment at any time+ All data 0ill be !sed 'or
e3perimental and teaching p!rposes only+
1
Appendix ":
Psychology Report: Detailed #nstruction $heet+
Please enter the room and take !p yo!r position+
(his sho!ld be a standing position directly in 'ront o' the class 0hiteboard+
Bnce in position yo! 0ill be asked to look at an ob1ect placed on a shel' directly in
'ront o' the class 0hiteboard and co)ered 0ith a cloth+
Beneath the cloth is a transparent 1ar* 0hich contains a n!mber o' s0eets+
(he cloth 0ill be remo)ed+
Bnce the cloth is remo)ed* yo! 0ill be asked to look at the content o' the 1ar 'or 1;
seconds+
Ko! 0ill then be reL!ired to pro)ide an estimate o' the n!mber o' s0eets yo! think
are in the 1ar+
(he estimate sheet is on a table to the right hand side o' yo!r standing position+
Bnce yo! ha)e completed yo!r estimate yo! 0ill be led 'rom the room and yo! 0ill
be read a debrie'ing on the e3periment 'rom one o' the researchers+
Are yo! readyI
Please proceed+
1"
Appendix %:
Psychology Report: Estimate sheet Control Group+
Appendix & =
12
Participant
'um(er:
Age M ) * E$T#MATE
Psychology Report: Estimate $heet Experimental Group
Appendix +:
1#
Participant
'um(er:
Age M ) * E$T#MATE
1
2

"
2
#
$
<
&
1;
Psychology Report: De(rie!,
In order to carry o!t laboratory e3periments it is o'ten reL!ired that a meas!re o'
deception is employed+ For e3ample* yo! 0ere told that the c!rrent psychology
e3periment 0as based on )is!al perception+ Ho0e)er* 0hen yo! 0ere asked to
estimate the n!mber o' ob1ects in a transparent glass 1ar 0e 0ere act!ally meas!ring
0hether or not the estimates on the e3perimental res!lts sheet* !pon 0hich yo! 0rote
yo!r estimate* in'l!enced yo!r estimate+ In other 0ords* the e3periment 0as
meas!ring a phenomenon kno0n as normati)e social in'l!ence+ As pre)io!sly
in'ormed* all data 0ill be !sed 'or e3perimental and teaching p!rposes only+
Appendix -=
1$
(he photo belo0 sho0s the 1ar containing $&& s0eets that 0as !sed in the c!rrent
e3periment+
Appendix . =
1<
Consent *orm
I MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM gi)e my consent to being a participant in
the 'ollo0ing research e3periment+ I '!lly kno0ledge 0hat this st!dy entails and I
ha)e no medical conditions that 0o!ld a''ect me d!ring this time+ I declare that I am
1# years o' age or older+
Sign 8ame= MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
Print 8ame= MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
%ate= MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM
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