How the Presence of Others Affects Individual Behavior

  • Conformity and Groupthink
    • People act differently in groups than individually
  • Conformity – “peer pressure”, tendency for people to bring behaviour to line with group norms. Powerful.
    • When behaviours are negative/wrong, why do people still conform to group norms?
    • 2 reasons why you’d conform:
      • 1) Informative influence: look to group for guidance when you don’t know what to do, and ask what to do.
      • 2) Normative influence: even if you know what’s right, do what group does to avoid social rejection.
    • 2 different ways a person can conform – publically or privately.
      • If you privately conform, change behaviours to align with group. If publically you’re outwardly changing but inside you maintain core beliefs.
    • Decision-making often takes place in groups. Group interactions shape the outcome.
      • Group polarization is a phenomenon where group decision-making amplifies the original opinion of group members. First, all the view does not have equal influence. Second, arguments made tend to favour popular view and any criticism is minority – confirmation bias.
      • Groupthink – occurs when maintaining harmony among group members is more important than carefully analyzing problem at hand. Happens in very cohesive, insulated groups. Often have important/respected leaders, and in the interest of group “unity” individuals suppress own opinions.
  • Conformity and Obedience
  • Refer to different, but related things. Conformity – how we adjust our behaviour/thinking to match group, obedience – how we obey authority. Both are helpful in society.
    • Anomie – breakdown of social bonds between an individual and community.
    • We conform in little ways, ex. don’t question cereal is breakfast food, or obey traffic lights.
    • Can have dark side – peer pressure can lead to questionable behaviours. Or the holocaust.
  • # of types of conformity and obedience.
    • One is through compliance, situations where we do a behaviour to get a reward or avoid punishment. Tendency to go along with behaviour without questioning why. Goes away once rewards/punishments removed. Ex. paying taxes.
    • Identification – when people act/dress a certain way to be like someone famous. Will do this as long as they maintain respect for that individual.
    • Internalization – idea/belief/behaviour has been integrated into our own values. Stronger than other types of conformity.
  • Normative Social Influence – If we do something to gain respect/support of peers, we’re complying with social norms. Because of this we might go with group outwardly, but internally believe something differently.
  • Informational Social Influence – when we conform because we feel others are more knowledgeable than us, because we think they know something we don’t.

 

  • Asch Conformity Studies (Asch Line Studies)

One of most famous conformity experiments.

  • Solomon Asch was part of the Gestalt Psychologists – believed not possible to understand human behaviour by breaking down into parts, have to be understood as whole.
  • “Most social acts have to be understood in their setting, and lose meaning if isolated.”

Holocaust influenced his studies of conformity. (Milgram)

  • Many Nazis said they were “just following orders”.

Ex. Participant in study, many other participants too. The experiment is boring – holds target line and 3 comparison lines, need to figure out which comparison line matches target.

  • First trial, everyone gives what is obviously right answer.
  • Second trial, same.
  • Third trial, answer is obvious, but other participants all give wrong answer. 75% of participants conformed and gave the wrong answer more than once, and 37% gave it wrong to everyone else.
  • Other participants were confederates (actors, told what to do).
  • No prize for doing well/poorly on the study – no actual pressure to perform, only perceived pressure.
    • Example of normative social influence. Others reasoned if everyone else gave correct answer, must be correct one – informational social influence. When we change our behavior. For some participants, errors they made seemed to be perceptual error – truly believed answer given by others were correct.
  • Why not conform? Some were really confident, others not confident but stuck with their answers.
    • Problems with study: population (all male undergrads), participant suspicions, ecological validity (line in lab not same as real world), demand characteristics (how participants change behaviour to match expectations of experimenter).
  • Migram Experiment on Obedience
  • Milgram studies were done to study willingness of participants, average Americans to obey authority figures that conflicted with their personality and morals.
    • Kept studies from finding out, he used deception – posted ad about memory/learning.
  • When arrived at lab, study that looked at effects of punishment on memory.
    • Learner was hooked to electrodes, and told learner would be shocked when gave wrong answer. Teacher was taken to different room without visual contact, sat in front of shock box. First 15V, and switches increased until 450V.
    • Whenever they made error, teacher was instructed to give higher shocks with each wrong answer (no actual shocks were given).
    • After several increasing shocks, learner would cry out in pain and complain about their heart condition. As shocks increased, continued to yell they want to quit.
    • Finally, all responses would cease and only silence.
    • Teacher instructed to continue, experiment requires you continue, it is absolutely essential you continue, you have no choice.
      • When results of study came out, very disturbing – 65% of participants shocked all the way. They had protested and were trembling, but still obeyed commander. In conditions with heart condition actor, dropped a bit, but not much – 63%.
  • What Can We Learn from Milgram Experiment
    • Study has been replicated, no matter what time period/location.
    • Study was perceived to be unethical at the time too.
    • Things we should avoid:
      • Many participants really felt ashamed about it, but tended to speak poorly of the victims – he wouldn’t have been shocked if he answered correctly, the “just world phenomenon” belief good things happen to good people, and vice versa. Some people use this to justify their actions.
      • Also, many participants were comforted by passing responsibility of actions to others (when experimenter said they’d take full responsibility). “I was just following orders”.
      • Also, caution ourselves against self-serving bias – that we could never commit acts like this, because most of us would.
      • Fundamental attribution error – focuses only on actions of others, tendency to believe that others in out-groups behave a certain way based on inherent personalities/flaws. Idea of attributing character too strongly to explain another group’s actions. Real takeaway of study – how easy it is to think others are atrocious and evil, while people like us would only perform evil acts because they’re misguided. Truth is we’re all misguided.
    • Important to have compassion for all people – victims and aggressor, don’t know how you’d act in their place.

 

  • Zimbardo Prison Study – the Stanford Prison Experiment
  • Study was conducted in 1971, how conformity can result in acts different from usual. Complicated. In certain situations can make otherwise ordinary people behave in strange ways. How social conventions can influence behaviours of prisoners/guards.
    • Got so caught up in roles had to stop experiment early.
    • Participants knew all about the study – no deception. And participants were definition of normal, with no medical/psychological problems. Male, middle class students.
    • 18 students randomly assigned to be guards or prisoners. All knew it was random.
    • Had participants in prisoners arrested at unexpected times on a random day. No windows and clocks. Separate prisoners from outside world.
    • Also met with guards and told them they were not supposed to physically harm prisoners, but could create fear/loss of control/loss of individuality. Given batons, and sunglasses. Instructed to refer to prisoners by #s and not names.
      • Day 1 uneventful. Then prisoners began to rebel against guards. Guards had to decide what to do. Guards fought back. Prisoners cursed at guards. At some point, guards began to see prisoners as actual dangerous prisoners. And used fire extinguishers on them and forced them to strip down.
      • Prisoners put into solitary confine., couldn’t rest. After 36 hrs prisoners began to break down. Not only one.
      • Day 3, situation went even further. Participants went on hunger strike. In response, forced to repeat their #s over and over again, exercise, withheld bathroom privileges, and make them turn on each other.
      • Day 5, same. Zimbardo involved himself as prison warden. Never realized things had gone wrong. 6 days his girlfriend Maslach visited prison and so upset by what she saw she made him stop the experiment.
    • By this time, half of prisoners already left from breakdowns. No guards had left.
  • Closer Look at the Stanford Prison Experiment
  • Prisoners did not band together usually, pretty distrustful of each other. And guards didn’t encourage solidarity, tended to reward those they saw as good prisoners by giving better foods, etc. By giving privileges to some, broke solidarity of prisoners.
    • Some released early – none of the prisoners just stopped and left, even if told at beginning that they could.
    • Guards placed most of their behaviours on the prisoners – thought they were wimps, troublemakers, or faking distress.
    • Shows us the influence situation can affect our behavior – might be due to: situational attribution (due to situation), not dispositional attribution (internal characteristics)
      • Also shows us becomes much easier to behave badly towards individuals who suffer from deindividualization (loss of self) – prisoners forced to dress same, and addressed as number.
      • Also shows bad behavior can result from cognitive dissonance – guards knowing their behavior was inappropriate, justified by saying everything happened because of prisoners.
      • Also role of internalization – prisoners incorporated their roles into beliefs, and let it influence their attitudes/behaviours.
        • But many problems – Zimbardo himself played role of prison warden, but by doing so he compromised his objectivity. Allowed a lot of unethical behavior. Why didn’t stop? He said he thought they were just faking it.
  • Also, methodology weren’t goods. What were his operational definitions of dependent/independent variables? What was being measured, where were controls, etc.? Also small sample size. Also good example of demand characteristics (how much of behavior was influenced by how they thought experimenter wanted them to behave).
  • Also selection bias – no deception in study, so what kind of student willingly signs up to be in prison for 2 weeks? So, was this really random?

 

  • Factors that Influence Obedience and Conformity
  • Likelihood someone will conform (changing how they think):
    • Group size – more likely to conform in groups of 3-5.
    • Unanimity – when opinions of group are unanimous. We’re not aware of effects a defector can have (someone who doesn’t conform).
    • Group status – why children more likely to go along with popular group. Why we trust doctors over gardeners about health.
    • Group cohesion– if we feel no connection with group, feel less of need to go along with that group.
    • Observed behaviour – whether we believe our behaviour is observed. Because participant came in late. If response in Asch line was not shared with group, much less likely to conform.
    • Public response – if we think we’re met with acceptance vs. shunning.
    • Internal factors – prior commitments (if we say something earlier, less likely to say something different later). Or feelings of insecurity – more likely to follow judgements of others.
  • Likelihood someone will obey – following orders without question/protest.
    • Depends on type of authority giving orders.
    • Our closeness to authority giving orders.
    • Physical proximity – more likely to comply in Milgram when authority standing close by.
    • Legitimacy of authority – if wearing labcoat
    • Also institutional authority – well-respected university. Can also be symbolic, ex. police/government.
    • Victim distance – in original Milgram study, couldn’t see participant. If could see participant, reduced likelihood participant would obey. But still didn’t stop everyone.
    • Depersonalization – when victim is made to seem less human.
    • Role models for defiance – more likely to obey when we see others doing the same.
  • No one type of personality makes someone subjectable to authority. But people’s moods can have an effect – those with rough day less likely to conform. Status and culture can play a role, those of low socioeconomic status are more likely to conform. Also cultures like US/Europe that emphasize individual achievement less likely to conform than collective cultures.
  • Just 1 non-conformer can make others not conform as well.
  • Bystander Effect
  • Person falls to ground nearby, would you help? People say yes, research says no. If in group, less likely to help. In group, people feel less inclined to take action. Called bystander effect. Individual may feel less inclined to take action because of presence of others in the group.
    • Why? One may be lack of medical knowledge, or limited experience in assistance and think someone else would do it – diffusion of responsibility theory. When individuals are in presence of others, feel less personal responsibility.
    • Amplified by amount of people in the group. If you were to collapse in small group, less chance of bystander effect. If only few people, more likely that people would be more inclined to take action and help you. Feel more personal responsibility.
    • Bystander effect can lead to little happening by any individual. One example is story of Kitty Genovese who was stabbed, raped, and robbed while 38 people were in vicinity. Spanned over half an hour.

Deindividuation – those in group are more likely to act inappropriately because crowd conceals person’s identity. Good example is behavior of some on Black Friday. Presence of large group of individuals decreases their inhibition/guilt. Or the internet.

  • Social Facilitation and Social Loafing
  • Social facilitation how would presence of others affect your behavior? Help or hinder your performance?
    • According to social facilitation, most dominant response for particular behavior would be shown. Dominant response refers to response most likely to occur. If you practice inside and out, presence of others will lead you to perform well. If you haven’t practiced well, presence of others will make you perform more poorly.
    • Presence of others increases your arousal – nervous energy. Increased energy/arousal increases likelihood of dominant response occurring. Whether correct or accurate depends on how easy the task is, and how well you’ve learned it. Presence of others improves performance on simple tasks, and hinders it on difficult tasks.
  • Social loafing is a tendency to put forth less effort in group task if the individual contributions aren’t evaluated.
    • Group-produced reduction of individual effort – groups experiencing social loafing put less productive, put forth less effort, and perform poorly.
    • Can be reduced by making task more difficult, or separate grades.
  • So does presence of others help or hinder performance? Depends.
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