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major changes in the political system of the Soviet Union that had controlled Eastern
Europe since 1945, the end of World War II. Eventually, that climate caught up to the
Soviet Union, which disintegrated completely in 1991.
Rebellion against authority may also occur within social climates that do not fully
support such rebellion. The resistance movements in France during World War II, for
example, helped undermine the German occupation forces, despite the fact that most
of France was ruled with an iron ¬st by the Germans. Within Germany itself, there was
some resistance to the Nazi regime (Peukert, 1987). Even the ill-fated student uprising
in Tiananmen Square took place within a climate of liberalization that had evolved over
several years before the uprising. Unfortunately, the climate reversed rapidly.
Not all acts of disobedience are rebellious in nature. In some instances a group of
citizens may advocate and engage in the breaking of laws they see as unjust. This is
commonly known as civil disobedience. Civil disobedience can take a number of forms,
including protests, work stoppages, boycotts, disobeying laws, and violent acts in¬‚icting
physical, economic, or property damage. Civil disobedience may be used in response
to restrictions of oneʼs basic civil rights or may be ideologically driven when a law is
perceived to be unacceptable to oneʼs best interests (Rattner, Yagil, & Pedahzur, 2001).
Finally, the most widely known form of civil disobedience occurs when one person
(e.g., Rosa Parks) or a large group of individuals (e.g., protests) engage in direct acts of
disobedience. However, a newer channel of civil disobedience is known as electronic
civil disobedience (Wray, 1999). According to Wray, such acts might include clogging
communications channels, physically damaging communication cables, and massive
e-mail campaigns designed to shut down government of¬ces and/or services.
Civil disobedience seems to work best when two conditions are met (Dillard, 2002).
First, civil disobedience is most effective when it is carried out in a nonviolent and non-
threatening way. So, individuals who engage in peaceful forms of civil disobedience will
have the most persuasive power over others. Second, the participants in civil disobedience
must be willing to accept the consequences of their disobedience and communicate their
suffering to others. Note that Rosa Parksʼs act of civil disobedience where she refused to
give her seat on a bus up for a white passenger met both of these conditions.


The Jury Room Revisited
Poor Karl! He never really had a chance, did he? He was caught on the horns of a
dilemma. On the one horn was the judge, a powerful authority ¬gure, telling him that he
must obey the law if the prosecutor proved his case. This was reinforced by the prosecu-
tor in his closing statement when he reminded the jury members of their duty to apply
Social Psychology
274

the law as provided by the judge. Certainly, in Karlʼs mind the prosecutor had met the
burden of proof outlined by the judge. In comes the second horn that gored Karl when
the deliberations began. He began to face normative and informational social in¬‚uence
from his fellow jurors. On the initial vote only two jurors sided with Karl. At this point
he had his true partners and he might have been able to hold out and at least hang the
jury if those true partners hadnʼt abandoned him. Eventually, Karl was left alone facing
a majority who tried their best to get Karl to change his mind. They did this by directly
applying pressure via persuasive arguments (informational social in¬‚uence) and the
more subtle channel of normative pressure.
As we know, Karl ultimately decided to disobey the judgeʼs authority. He changed
his vote to not guilty. However, consistent with what we now know about social in¬‚u-
ence, he was not convinced. His behavior change was brought about primarily through
normative social in¬‚uence. This is re¬‚ected in the sentiment he expressed just before
he changed his vote: He changed his vote so as not to hold up the jury but he would
“never feel right about it.”



Chapter Review
1. What is conformity?
Conformity is one type of social in¬‚uence. It occurs when we modify our
behavior in response to real or imagined pressure from others. Karl, the man
cast into the role of juror in a criminal trial, entered the jury deliberations
convinced that the defendant was guilty. Throughout the deliberations, Karl
maintained his view based on the information he had heard during the trial.
However, in the end, Karl changed his verdict. He did this because of the
perceived pressure from the other 11 jurors, not because he was convinced
by the evidence that the defendant was innocent. Karlʼs dilemma, pitting his
own internal beliefs against the beliefs of others, is a common occurrence in
our lives. We often ¬nd ourselves in situations where we must modify our
behavior based on what others do or say.
2. What is the source of the pressures that lead to conformity?
The pressure can arise from two sources. We may modify our behavior because
we are convinced by information provided by others, which is informational
social in¬‚uence. Or we may modify our behavior because we perceive
that a norm, an unwritten social rule, must be followed. This is normative
social in¬‚uence. In the latter case, information provided by others de¬nes
the norm we then follow. Norms play a central role in our social lives. The
classic research by Sherif making use of the autokinetic effect showed how a
norm forms.
3. What research evidence is there for conformity?
Solomon Asch conducted a series of now-classic experiments that showed
conformity effects with a relatively clear and simple perceptual line-judgment
task. He found that participants conformed to an incorrect majority on 33%
of the critical trials where a majority (composed of confederates) made
obviously incorrect judgments. In postexperimental interviews, Asch found
that there were a variety of reasons why a person would conform (yield) or
not conform (remain independent).
Chapter 7 Conformity, Compliance, and Obedience 275

4. What factors in¬‚uence conformity?
Research by Asch and others found several factors that in¬‚uence conformity.
Conformity is more likely to occur when the task is ambiguous than if
the task is clear-cut. Additionally, conformity increases as the size of the
majority increases up to a majority size of three. After a majority size of three,
conformity does not increase signi¬cantly with the addition of more majority
members. Finally, Asch found that conformity levels go down if you have
another person who stands with you against the majority. This is the true
partner effect.
5. Do women conform more than men?
Although early research suggested that women conformed more than men,
later research revealed no such simple relationship. Research indicates
that the nature of the task was not important in producing the observed
sex differences. However, women are more likely to conform if the
experimenter is a man. No gender differences are found when a woman
runs the experiment. Also, women are more likely to conform than men
under conditions of normative social in¬‚uence than under informational
social in¬‚uence conditions. Two explanations have been offered for gender
differences in conformity. First, gender may serve as a status variable in
newly formed groups, with men cast in the higher-status roles and women in
the lower-status roles. Second, women tend to be more sensitive than men to
conformity pressures when they have to state their opinions publicly.
6. Can the minority ever in¬‚uence the majority?
Generally, American social psychologists have focused their attention on
the in¬‚uence of a majority on the minority. However, in Europe, social
psychologists have focused on how minorities can in¬‚uence majorities.
A ¬rm, consistent minority has been found capable of causing change in
majority opinion. Generally, a minority that is consistent but ¬‚exible and
adheres to opinions that ¬t with the current spirit of the times has a good
chance of changing majority opinion. A minority will also be more effective
when the majority knows that people have switched to the minority viewpoint;
although this effect levels off after three defections. Additionally, a minority
has more power in a face-to-face in¬‚uence situation and, in an ironic twist is
more likely to be taken seriously when the minority is small.
7. How does minority in¬‚uence work?
Some theorists contend that majority and minority in¬‚uence represent two
distinct processes, with majority in¬‚uence being primarily normative and
minority in¬‚uence being primarily informational. However, other theorists
argue that a single process can account for both majority and minority
in¬‚uence situations. According to Latan©ʼs social impact theory, social
in¬‚uence is related to the interaction between the strength of the in¬‚uence
source, the immediacy of the in¬‚uence source, and the number of in¬‚uence
sources. To date, neither the two- nor the single-process approach can explain
all aspects of minority, or majority, in¬‚uence, but more evidence supports the
single-process model.
Social Psychology
276

8. Why do we sometimes end up doing things we would rather not do?
Sometimes we modify our behavior in response to a direct request from
someone else. This is known as compliance. Social psychologists have
uncovered four main techniques that can induce compliance.
9. What are compliance techniques, and why do they work?
In the foot-in-the-door technique (FITD), a small request is followed by a
larger one. Agreeing to the second, larger request is more likely after agreeing
to the ¬rst, smaller request. This technique appears to work for three reasons.
First, according to the self-perception hypothesis, agreeing to the ¬rst request
may result in shifts in oneʼs self-perception. After agreeing to the smaller
request, you come to see yourself as the type of person who helps. Second, the
perceptual contrast hypothesis suggests that the second, larger request seems
less involved following the smaller, ¬rst request. Third, our thought processes
may undergo a change after agreeing to the ¬rst request. The likelihood of
agreeing to the second request depends on the thoughts we developed based on
information about the ¬rst request.
The door-in-the-face technique (DITF) reverses the foot-in-the-door
strategy: A large (seemingly unreasonable) request is followed by a smaller
one. Agreement to the second, smaller request is more likely if it follows the
larger request than if it is presented alone. The door-in-the-face technique
works because the norm of reciprocity is energized when the person making
the request makes a “concession.” The door-in-the-face technique may also
work because we do not want to seem cheap through perceptual contrast or to
be perceived as someone who refuses a worthy cause. This latter explanation
is the worthy person hypothesis. A ¬nal explanation for the DITF technique is
self-presentation. According to this explanation, refusing the ¬rst request in the
DITF procedure may cause the person making the request to perceive the target
as an unhelpful person. The target agrees to the second request to avoid this
perception.
10. What do social psychologists mean by the term “obedience”?
Obedience is the social in¬‚uence process by which a person changes his or her
behavior in response to a direct order from someone in authority. The authority
¬gure has the power, which can stem from several sources, to enforce the
orders. Generally, obedience is not always bad. Obedience to laws and rules
is necessary for the smooth functioning of society. This is called constructive
obedience. However, sometimes obedience is taken to an extreme and causes
harm to others. This is called destructive obedience.
Chapter 7 Conformity, Compliance, and Obedience 277

11. How do social psychologists de¬ne evil, and are evil deeds done by evil
persons?
From a social psychological perspective, evil has been de¬ned as “intentionally
behaving, or causing others to act, in ways that demean, dehumanize, harm,
destroy or kill innocent people” (Zimbardo, 2004, p. 22). Under this broad
de¬nition, a wide range of deeds could be considered evil. Social psychologists
have also analyzed the roots of evil. Baumeister and Vohs (2004) identi¬ed
four preconditions for evil: instrumentality (using violence to achieve a goal),
threatened egotism (perceived challenges to honor), idealism (using violence as
a means to a higher goal), and sadism (enjoying harming others). These set the
stage for evil to occur, but it is a loss of self-control that directly relates to evil.
Staub (1989) also suggests that dif¬cult life conditions, cultural and personal
factors, and social-political factors (authoritarian rule) also contribute to evil.
There is a tendency to attribute acts of destructive obedience to
abnormal internal characteristics of the perpetrator. In other words, we tend
to believe that evil people carry out such acts. Social psychologists have
recently attempted to de¬ne evil from a social psychological perspective.
One such de¬nition says that evil is de¬ned as “intentionally behaving, or
causing others to act, in ways that demean, dehumanize, harm, destroy or kill
innocent people.”
Although it might be comforting to think that those who carry out orders
to harm others are inhuman monsters, Arendtʼs analysis of Adolph Eichmann,
a Nazi responsible for deporting millions of Jews to death camps, suggests
that evil is often very commonplace. Those who carry out acts of destructive
obedience are often very ordinary people. The false idea that evil deeds can
be done only by evil people is referred to as Eichmannʼs fallacy. Not everyone
agrees with this analysis. Calder (2003) suggests that evil carried out by moral
idiots (those doing evil at the behest of others) may be more banal than evil
carried out by moral monsters (those who conceive and direct evil acts).
12. What research has been done to study obedience?
Recurring questions about destructive obedience led Stanley Milgram to
conduct a series of ingenious laboratory experiments on obedience. Participants
believed that they were taking part in a learning experiment. They were to
deliver increasingly strong electric shocks to a “learner” each time he made
an error. When the participant protested that the shocks were getting too
strong, the experimenter ordered the participant to continue the experiment. In
the original experiment where there was no feedback from the learner to the
participant, 65% of the participants obeyed the experimenter, going all the way
to 450 volts.
Social Psychology
278

13. What factors in¬‚uence obedience?
In variations on his original experiment, Milgram uncovered several factors
that in¬‚uenced the level of obedience to the experimenter, such as moving
the learner closer to the teacher. Explanations for the proximity effect include
increasing empathic cues from the learner to the teacher and cognitive
narrowing, which is focusing attention on the obedience task at hand, not
on the suffering of the victim. Moving the experiment from prestigious Yale
University to a downtown storefront resulted in a modest (but not statistically
signi¬cant) decrease in obedience as well. Research after Milgramʼs suggests
that the perceived legitimacy of authority is in¬‚uential. We are more likely to
respond to an order from someone in uniform than from someone who is not.
Additionally, if the authority ¬gure is physically removed from the laboratory
and gives orders by phone, obedience drops.
Con¬‚icting sources of authority also can disrupt obedience. Given the
choice between obeying an authority ¬gure who says to continue harming
the learner and obeying one who says to stop, participants are more likely to
side with the one who says to stop. Seeing a peer disobey the experimenter is
highly effective in reducing obedience. Two explanations have been offered
for this effect. The ¬rst explanation is diffusion of responsibility: When others
are involved in the obedience situation, the participant may spread around the
responsibility for doing harm to the learner. The second explanation centers
on the development of a new antiobedience norm when oneʼs peers refuse to
go along with the experimenter. If an antiobedience norm develops among
disobedient confederates, individuals are likely to disobey the authority ¬gure.
14. Are there gender differences in obedience?
Although Milgramʼs original research suggested that there is no difference in
levels of obedience between male and female participants, two later studies
suggest that males obey more than females and that among younger individuals
there is more obedience to male than female sources of authority.
15. Do Milgramʼs results apply to other cultures?
Milgramʼs basic ¬ndings hold up quite well across cultures and situations.
Cross-cultural research done in Australia, Jordan, Holland, and Germany has
shown reduced obedience levels that support Milgramʼs ¬ndings, even when
the obedience tasks diverge from Milgramʼs original paradigm.
16. What criticisms of Milgramʼs experiments have been offered?
Milgramʼs research paradigm has come under close scrutiny. Some observers
question the ethics of his situation. After all, participants were placed in
a highly stressful situation and were deceived about the true nature of the
research. However, Milgram was sensitive to these concerns and took steps
to head off any ill effects of participating in his experiment. Other critiques
of Milgramʼs research suggested that using the graded shock intensities made
it easier for participants to obey. The foot-in-the-door effect may have been
operating.
Chapter 7 Conformity, Compliance, and Obedience 279

Another criticism of Milgramʼs research was that the whole situation had
an unreal quality to it. That is, the situation confuses the participant, causing
him to act indecisively. Thus, Milgramʼs experiments may be more about how
a situation can overwhelm the normal positive aspects of behavior rather than
about slavish obedience to authority.
Finally, Milgramʼs experiments have been criticized for violating ethical

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