<< Chapter < Page Chapter >> Page >
A toy figure of Hilary Clinton is shown in a packaging box reading “Is America Ready for This Nutcracker?”
This gag gift demonstrates how female leaders may be viewed if they violate social norms. (Photo courtesy of istolethetv/flickr)

Conformity

We all like to fit in to some degree. Likewise, when we want to stand out, we want to choose how we stand out and for what reasons. For example, a woman who loves cutting-edge fashion and wants to dress in thought-provoking new styles likely wants to be noticed, but most likely she will want to be noticed within a framework of high fashion. She wouldn’t want people to think she was too poor to find proper clothes. Conformity is the extent to which an individual complies with group norms or expectations. As you might recall, we use reference groups to assess and understand how to act, to dress, and to behave. Not surprisingly, young people are particularly aware of who conforms and who does not. A high school boy whose mother makes him wear ironed button-down shirts might protest that he will look stupid––that everyone else wears T-shirts. Another high school boy might like wearing those shirts as a way of standing out. How much do you enjoy being noticed? Do you consciously prefer to conform to group norms so as not to be singled out? Are there people in your class who immediately come to mind when you think about those who don’t want to conform?

Psychologist Solomon Asch (1907–1996) conducted experiments that illustrated how great the pressure to conform is, specifically within a small group (1956). After reading about his work in the Sociological Research feature, ask yourself what you would do in Asch’s experiment. Would you speak up? What would help you speak up and what would discourage it?

Conforming to expectations

In 1951, psychologist Solomon Asch sat a small group of about eight people around a table. Only one of the people sitting there was the true subject; the rest were associates of the experimenter. However, the subject was led to believe that the others were all, like him, people brought in for an experiment in visual judgments. The group was shown two cards, the first card with a single vertical line, and the second card with three vertical lines differing in length. The experimenter polled the group and asked each participant one at a time which line on the second card matched up with the line on the first card.

However, this was not really a test of visual judgment. Rather, it was Asch’s study on the pressures of conformity. He was curious to see what the effect of multiple wrong answers would be on the subject, who presumably was able to tell which lines matched. In order to test this, Asch had each planted respondent answer in a specific way. The subject was seated in such a way that he had to hear almost everyone else’s answers before it was his turn. Sometimes the nonsubject members would unanimously choose an answer that was clearly wrong.

So what was the conclusion? Asch found that thirty-seven out of fifty test subjects responded with an “obviously erroneous” answer at least once. When faced by a unanimous wrong answer from the rest of the group, the subject conformed to a mean of four of the staged answers. Asch revised the study and repeated it, wherein the subject still heard the staged wrong answers, but was allowed to write down his answer rather than speak it aloud. In this version, the number of examples of conformity––giving an incorrect answer so as not to contradict the group––fell by two thirds. He also found that group size had an impact on how much pressure the subject felt to conform.

The results showed that speaking up when only one other person gave an erroneous answer was far more common than when five or six people defended the incorrect position. Finally, Asch discovered that people were far more likely to give the correct answer in the face of near-unanimous consent if they had a single ally. If even one person in the group also dissented, the subject conformed only a quarter as often. Clearly, it was easier to be a minority of two than a minority of one.

Asch concluded that there are two main causes for conformity: people want to be liked by the group or they believe the group is better informed than they are. He found his study results disturbing. To him, they revealed that intelligent, well-educated people would, with very little coaxing, go along with an untruth. He believed this result highlighted real problems with the education system and values in our society (Asch 1956).

Stanley Milgram, a Yale psychologist, had similar results in his experiment that is now known simply as the Milgram Experiment. In 1962, Milgram found that research subjects were overwhelmingly willing to perform acts that directly conflicted with their consciences when directed by a person of authority. In the experiment, subjects were willing to administer painful, even supposedly deadly, shocks to others who answered questions incorrectly.

To learn more about similar research, visit (External Link) and read an account of Philip Zimbardo's prison experiment conducted at Stanford University in 1971.

Summary

The size and dynamic of a group greatly affects how members act. Primary groups rarely have formal leaders, although there can be informal leadership. Groups generally are considered large when there are too many members for a simultaneous discussion. In secondary groups there are two types of leadership functions, with expressive leaders focused on emotional health and wellness, and instrumental leaders more focused on results. Further, there are different leadership styles: democratic leaders, authoritarian leaders, and laissez-faire leaders.

Within a group, conformity is the extent to which people want to go along with the norm. A number of experiments have illustrated how strong the drive to conform can be. It is worth considering real-life examples of how conformity and obedience can lead people to ethically and morally suspect acts.

Short answer

Think of a scenario where an authoritarian leadership style would be beneficial. Explain. What are the reasons it would work well? What are the risks?

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

Describe a time you were led by a leader using, in your opinion, a leadership style that didn’t suit the situation. When and where was it? What could she or he have done better?

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

Imagine you are in Asch’s study. Would you find it difficult to give the correct answer in that scenario? Why or why not? How would you change the study now to improve it?

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

What kind of leader do you tend to be? Do you embrace different leadership styles and functions as the situation changes? Give an example of a time you were in a position of leadership and what function and style you expressed.

Got questions? Get instant answers now!

Further research

What is your leadership style? The website (External Link) offers a quiz to help you find out!

Explore other experiments on conformity at (External Link)

References

Asch, Solomon. 1956. “Studies of Independence and Conformity: A Minority of One Against a Unanimous Majority.” Psychological Monographs 70(9, Whole No. 416).

Boatwright, K.J., and L. Forrest. 2000. “Leadership Preferences: The Influence of Gender and Needs for Connection on Workers’ Ideal Preferences for Leadership Behaviors.” The Journal of Leadership Studies 7(2): 18–34.

Cox, Ana Marie. 2006. “How Americans View Hillary: Popular but Polarizing.” Time , August 19. Retrieved February 10, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Dowd, Maureen. 2008. “Can Hillary Cry Her Way to the White House?” New York Times , January 9. Retrieved February 10, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Kurtieben, Danielle. 2010. “Sarah Palin, Hillary Clinton, Michelle Obama, and Women in Politics.” US News and World Report , September 30. Retrieved February 10, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Milgram, Stanley. 1963. “Behavioral Study of Obedience.” Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 67: 371–378.

Simmel, Georg. 1950. The Sociology of Georg Simmel . Glencoe, IL: The Free Press.

Weeks, Linton. 2011. “The Feminine Effect on Politics.” National Public Radio (NPR), June 9. Retrieved February 10, 2012 ( (External Link) ).

Questions & Answers

mcq creativity involves
Sanjika Reply
send me the answers
Sanjika
mCQ creativity involves
Sanjika
ology means a study of
SharaAmor Reply
is a greek word means soul
SharaAmor
science
Tina
a branch of knowledge
Kanchan
psych means soul and ology means to study.
Wajid
Can someone help me with tha latent functions of different social institutions
Usman
***interestinglydifferenttopics.blogspot.com/2020/10/reflexes-psychological-debate.html Do check this out and please correct me if I'm wrong anywhere in this
Interestingly Reply
Factors that affect learning?
Ofentse Reply
I am struggling with survivors guilt and complicated grief after traumatic death of spouse. how to cope.
Rowdy Reply
Try to talk with someone you trust and join people who makes you feel worthy. try to help someone. Helping someone makes you feel better
sherlock
I think you must seek professional help.
Swarada
I am extremely sorry for your loss...I know that the pain of your loss is overwhelming and that you are experiencing all kinds of difficult and unexpected emotions. please don't get me wrong but the best way to cope is to move on..i know its hard..but that's the only way..(continued.)
Princess
stop burdening yourself with thoughts that say you could have done something..you couldn't..your just a human being and you cant always be a superman who saves the day..please dont feel guilty when you have no reason to..(cont.)
Princess
learn to love yourself again..learn to live ..for yourself,for the people who love you and need you in their lives.live for people who you once loved...Think about how you can make your life meaningful once again.It might seem impossible but trust me its necessary ..
Princess
Let your feelings of pain out ..you dont have to suffer ..talk to people whom you trust and love. take care and have a beautiful life ahead.
Princess
First and foremost -- Wow Rowdy! You have been through a highly difficult situation in your life, hands down. As a wife, I simply cannot phathom nor imagine slightly the feelings and thoughts you bare and I'm sure as these words do not help and hit rewind; my heart and prayers are going out to you-
Stephanie
today. I will say as well, everything you are feeling and going through, please know that these feelings and thoughts are all allowed, it is okay for you to find yourself feeling or thinking things that you would never find yourself wanting especially given the situation. I'm sure you question --
Stephanie
yourself, which in turn could make you question who you are right now and what this means for you as a person now and in the future. This is all okay, but there will have to be an understanding as to how to grow from these feelings and thoughts in a more humane manner l as these feelings and ---
Stephanie
thoughts could take a turn for a much more negative outcome as you find yourself trapped in a darkness that, if strong enough, trials and tribulations take years of complex development and experience, less strong minded individuals sometimes either never find the light, or end up being stuck in ----
Stephanie
a subconscious netherworld as they are consumed given the manipulation that was not understood to overcome. It results in losing all sense of heart, faith, soul and intelligence so that you don't grow, which in your case, growth is crucial. This is what your spouse will do their best in trying -----
Stephanie
to guide you through; keep an your senses wide open so that you can learn when she is trying to communicate.
Stephanie
What is meant by politics of intelligence? Please guide about this article.
Ali Reply
***scholar.google.com/scholar?q=politics+of+intelligence&hl=en&as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart#d=gs_qabs&u=%23p%3D_ckggUkdkPUJ
Angela
Thanks angela
Ali
Can u please explain it to me in your words?
Ali
Information about child psychology
Mohammed Reply
what is this
Maryam
any theory recommendations about socialization?
Geo
help me please:<
Geo
actually I don't know
Maryam
I badly need some for my research :<
Geo
But I need that😥
Mohammed
***courses.lumenlearning.com /boundless-sociology/chapter/theories-of-socialization/
Jobin
branches of psychology
QSN Reply
neuropsychology
jeddy
behaviorism
Mira
Legal psychology
Miljana
Developmental psychology, Sports psychology , Clinical psychology , Marketing psychology , counseling psychology , Biological psychology, Educational psychology , Positive psychology etc.
Swarada
child.psychology
Nss
social, occupational psychology
jeddy
what does it mean when the temporal lobe is anterior to occipital lobe
John Reply
the cortex refers to what part of the brain
John
the cortex refers to what part of the brain
John
cerebral cortex
jeddy
behind?
jeddy
in what time of situation is training most useful?
marjelee Reply
during bad experience
Nyakuei
i think its not about suitation, its about the thing tatz need training.
gokul
training is possibly warranted for all situations.
rhoda
I would think that training should be an ungoing thing. That's before, during and after. just in case there's a reoccurrence
Angela
any time
Aaronz
what is Karma
ana Reply
I think the summation of good and bad deeds you do in your life. Accidentally or otherwise.
Swarada
Yes. I totally agree.
ana
And if it is bad then the root must have been too.
ana
Yes , In Hinduism we also believe that our parent's Karma also applies to us ! Don't know about that , but it kept people in check .
Swarada
Adding to Swarada point. karma can be good or bad. both will have consequences. karma is biasedness you have shown in your life. like a king could not have two rules for normal man and his son, that comes under karma.
Sujeet
Oh perfectly said!
Swarada
Ok. It is also said that when one does something... bad or good..it will come back to you 10 folds of the same.
ana
yea that too ! I remember my mother always said if u stole someone's 10 rupees ur 100 will be stolen ( excuse my English ! I'm a non - English speaking person)
Swarada
karma is nothing but what one usually mean when they say- what you sow, so shall you reap.
Alisha
certainly
Crazy
more important.. this concept was told by lord Krishna as part of spirituality, to focus on your good deed ,the purpose you are born for and your responsibilities. Not for hoping that bad will happen with people who made you feel bad. just giving example ;)
Sujeet
karma is the boomerang of your actions. what u put out in the universe u get back
David
Who is the founder of psychology
Daryl Reply
Wilhelm wundt
Amanda
Wilhelm Wundt
Sneha
William wundth
Ihrar
Wilhelm Wundt
Megha
and William James
Amanda
Wilhelm Wundt
adam
Wilhelm Wundt is the founder of structuralism
Angela
Yes and also the "Father of Psychology" I think the correct word is Father not Founder.
Swarada
oh ok. noted
Angela
i believe it goes beyond him I believe it is Ancient but un formalized
David
I like your answer Swarada
David
Oh thanks! But u summarised it well!
Swarada
what is up my fellow psych peeps!!
what are some academic research on developmental psychology
Chezy
Sawrada Founder of Psychology is W.Wundt but Father of Psychology is Sigmund Freud...
Wajid
what are some good schools to study psychology?
Enjoy Reply
George Mason, Penn State, UVA, university of Michigan
Jasmine
Hi I'm currently doing my experimental psychology research can you suggest a topic or research topic for my research thank you and please see 😊
Jerico Reply
Hello Jerico. I could help you out with some ideas if you're interested!
Yasmine
can u give me some ideas too?
Geo
For sure. It depends if you're trying to do an experiment (using statistics probably) or a case study what are you aiming for?
Yasmine
Hello Jerico. Try to opt for something simple and easy to do. I wouls say perhaps study the effects of color on concentration? You could get a group of people and have them take a memory test (you can find some online) in a white room for example. Then have them take another memory test
Yasmine
similar to the first one but in a different room and then you check the responses if the performance is better
Yasmine
but you have to know that a lot of factors will interfere in the performance such as mental state etc so make sure to choose a certain specific population. that's very important
Yasmine
you could be a bit more specific about it , to isolate the variables that can mess it up like age, sex, etc... you gotta take that into account
Yasmine
so that the results get somewhat accurate
Yasmine
that is very detailed information I really like it thank you very much 😊 your so very kind
Jerico
You're very welcome
Yasmine
what are your interests in general?
Yasmine
Althogh I'm persuing botany and engineering.... but I also want to study human behaviour and psychology.... I would like if anyone can share their knowledge with me !!!!
Crazy
I'm interested on effect of electroconvulsive therapy on people having a depression
Jerico
What is Electroconvulsive therapy?
Pixeled
Astral Projection
Mansi
Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is a medical treatment that is most commonly used in patients with severe major depression.
Jerico
What are the expected dutties functions and responsibilities of a head of an agency based on the principles, Practice of industrial psychology?
Paul Reply
what are the psychological characteristics expected from an employee wether regular or occupying a position?
Paul
Got questions? Join the online conversation and get instant answers!
Jobilize.com Reply

Get the best Introduction to sociol... course in your pocket!





Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
Google Play and the Google Play logo are trademarks of Google Inc.

Notification Switch

Would you like to follow the 'Introduction to sociology 2e' conversation and receive update notifications?

Ask