Picture yourself in the following scenarios, you’ve answered an advert in the local paper to take part in an experiment for psychology purposes, you arrive along with others but not realising that you are the only true volunteer. You are all placed in a darkened room and the only thing you can see is a pin point of light which tends to move (The Autokinetic Effect). Then later your all asked how much the pin points of light moved and then compared the answers collected from the other volunteers (Stooges).
As an individual you give your answer which is different from your group answer. Another experiment involves two cards, one contains a single vertical line and the other card contains three different lengths of vertical lines. The end result in both of these experiments shows how we conform to others. I’m going to explain in two ways in depth how we “Conform” to others, the “Self Concept” and “Obedience”. At the end of this essay you will see that I’ve noted how important it is that we meet the BPS ethical guidelines when experiments like these are done.
In 1935 a Psychologist called Sherif wanted to show how people conformed to other people’s ideas, so he used an experiment called the “Autokinetic Effect” and this involved placing the subjects in a darkened room with a pin point of light which would eventually move about. Sherif asked the subjects to estimate how much the pin point of light moved and they all gave very different answers ranging from one to seven inches.
Each subject tended to make the same sort of judgement whenever they were tested. For instance their answers for the next set of tests would be the same as the previous experiments. These were the results that Sherif got when the subjects were tested on their own. However when they were sat in a room all together they seemed to give the same answers as each other. The result in this experiment is Conformity.
In 1951 a Social Psychologist called Solomon Asch invented an experiment to explore how pressure from one person could affect another person’s perceptions. In total, one third of the subjects who were put in this situation went along with the clearly erroneous majority. Asch’s experiment involved 4 lines, 3 of the lines were different lengths to the 1st line. These were shown to college students in groups of 8 to 10. He told them that he wanted to study the visual perception and that their task was to decide which of the lines matched the same as the 1st line. It was obvious to see what the correct answer was. Asch asked the students to give their answers aloud. Only 1 student in each group was the real subject. All the others were confederates who were instructed to give inaccurate answers on a number of trials.
Asch made sure that the real subject was the next to the last person in each of these groups to provide their answer. This is because Asch wanted the subject to hear most of the confederate incorrect answers before giving his own. The question is would the subject go along with the crowd? Asch was amazed to find that most of the subjects conformed to the majority at least once and the rest of them conformed on more than 6 of the 12 trials. When confronted with a unanimous incorrect answer by the other group members, the mean subject conformed on 4 of the 12 trials. Asch was disturbed by these results:
The tendency to conform in our society is so strong that reasonably intelligent and well-meaning young people are willing to call white black. This is a matter of concern. It raises questions about our ways of education and about the values that guide our conduct.
Theories of the self When we are born into this world we do not know anything. We are unable to do things for ourselves and do not understand anything. As we grow and develop our self into the unique human we are today we see ourselves through others. Charles Horton Cooley proposed the theory “Looking Glass Self” the process of developing a self-image on the basis of the messages we get from others, as we understand them. There are three components to the looking glass self:
1. We imagine how we appear to others. 2. We imagine what their judgement of that appearance must be. 3. We develop some self-feeling such as pride or mortification, as a result of our imagining others judgement. 4. Charles Cooley basically tells us that we use others as a mirror and that is how we think others see us. In 1969 Michael Argyle described four main factors that affect the way an individuals self concept develops and is maintained in day to day living. These factors are: 1. Other peoples reactions for instance if we are talking to another person and they seem to look at something else or seem to be “in another place” we feel that we are dull and boring the other person or don’t seem interesting enough for the other person to want to pay full attention.
2. Comparisons with other people and how we should look to fit in, to be accepted by others. How we look in comparison to the next person for instance within a group/gang we would always want to be the better person within the group/gang. 3. Roles, Everybody has different sets of roles that they play in their life, for example: as a parent, as a neighbour, as a wife/husband etc. Each set of roles come with different types of behaviour.
4. Identification with others. Self-identity originally comes into existence through identification with others. Being part of a family, group, community or a culture is a primary psychological motivation based on the primacy for attachment, relatedness, emotional involvement with others, and the desire for acceptance and love. Through the process of identification with others the rudiments of the self are constituted through the internalization of others who possess the psychological characteristics of similarity.