Studies in Psychology (Social Influence)

Stanley Milgram (1963)
The most famous study into investigating obedience to authority. Milgram told participants the study concerned the role of punishment in learning. Genuine participant was always the teacher and confederate was used as learner. Teacher would administer a shock every time learner made a mistake, increasing the voltage every time (10V-450V) No shocks were actually administered. Results showed that all participants went to at least 300V. 65% went to the end of the shock generator.
Orne and Holland (1968)
Question Milgram’s internal validity. Claims participants distrust experimenter because the know the aim may be disguised, so don’t feel bad about administering the shocks.
Sheridan and King (1972)
The same as milgram, but with puppies being shocked. This time, the puppies were getting a small shock, just enough to make it jump and show obvious signs of receiving a shock. Eventually, the puppy received a small anaesthetic to put it to sleep, and participants thought they had killed it.
Hofling et al (1966)
Phoned up nurses pretending to be ‘Dr. Smith’ and asked them to give a patient 20mg (twice recommended dose) of an unknown drug. Nurses should not take orders over the phone from an unknown doctor. However, 21/22 (95%) obeyed.
Rank and Jacobsen (1975)
Question Hofling’s ecological validity. Similar to Hofling, although this time the drug was familiar, and nurses were able to consult other nurses. More natural environment. 2/18 obeyed. Suggests obedience to authority in general life situations is low.
Perrin and Spencer (1980)
Repeated Asch’s study in England using science and engineering students. In their initial study, they found only one conforming response out of 396 trials. In a subsequent study, Perrin and Spencer used youths on probation as participants, and probation officers as confederates. This time they found similar levels of conformity to those found by Asch.
Larsen (1974)
Found lower conformity rates with US students.
Smith and Bond (1998)
Emphasised the importance of culture – collectivist vs. individualistic cultures – external validity.
Tarnow (2000)
Found that up to 20% of all airplane accidents may be preventable by optimizing the monitoring and challenging of captain errors by the first officer. Real life application – plane crashes.
Snyder and Fromkin (1980)
Compared two groups of American students to see which was most likely to conform. One group were told they had attitudes that were the same as 10,000 other students, and the other group was told their attitude was very different to 10,000 other students. The group who were told their attitude was the same were more likely to resist conforming than the group who were told they had individual attitudes. This showed that students who were led to believe they already had a conforming attitude made extra effort to assert themselves as individuals.
Deutsch and Gerard (1955)
Deutsch & Gerrard explored the role of normative influence by extending Asch’s research. There were 3 main conditions in their study:
1) As with Asch, the 3 participants were together – face-to-face – and the genuine participant had to announce their judgement publicly
2) The genuine participant gave their judgements anonymously in an isolated cubicle by pressing a button, believing there were 3 other participants
3) The 3 participants were in a isolated group, believing they were in competition with other groups and the experimenter promising a reward to the groups making the most accurate decisions

As predicted, Deutsch & Gerrard found conformity greatest in the third condition – though it is impossible to separate out normative from informational influence in that condition. They found conformity at its least in the second.

Rotter (1966)
Locus of Control. It measures generalized expectancies for internal versus external control of reinforcement. People with an internal locus of control believe that their own actions determine the rewards that they obtain, while those with an external locus of control believe that their own behaviour doesn’t matter much and that rewards in life are generally outside of their control. Scores range from 0 to 13. A low score indicates an internal control while a high score indicates external control.
Oliner and Oliner (1988)
Interviewed two groups of non-Jewish people who had lived through the Holocaust and Nazi Germany. They compared 406 people who had protected and rescued Jews from the Nazis and 126 people who had not done this. Oliner and Oliner found that the group that rescued the Jews scored higher on measures of social responsibility and had scores demonstrating an internal locus of control.
Williams and Warchal (1981)
30 university students given conformity tasks based on Asch and assessed for LOC. Found that those conformed were less assertive but didn’t score differently on LOC scale.
Moscovici (1969)
32 groups of six female participants are told they’re taking part in a study on perception.
Each group are presented with 36 blue slides differing in intensity of shade and are asked to say what colour the slides are. However two of the participants are stooges and these answer in one of two ways:
1. They always say the slides are green
2. They say the slides are green on two thirds of occasions
1. When the stooges say ‘green’ every time: 8% of the majority agree
2. When the stooges are less consistent this falls to 1.25%
These figures aren’t very high, however, 32% of participants conformed with the minority on at least one occasion. Remember also that the slides are quite clearly blue and NOT green.