College Students tested the methods of how conformity influences individuals. The present tests the theory that social pressure influences individuals difficulty ranking. The hypothesis of the study is that there will be change in the individuals response because of the influence of the confederate and it would mostly likely change towards the direction of the confederate response. There were 40 participants in the study, 20 females and 20 males, with a mean age of 21.87 years with the addition of two male and two female confederates. Two participants were excluded from the study. In the present study, a surveyor approach the confederates and participants asking them to take a math survey. The participants were given one of the two response sheets in which one was of Easy difficulty ranking survey (Version B) or Hard difficulty ranking survey (Version A). The participants were then grouped into four groups, each in a different condition. In one condition, 10 times when the participants were male, the confederate was a male. In another condition, 10 times the participants were male, the confederate was a female. In another condition, 10 times the participants were female, the confederate was a male. In the last condition 10 times the participants were female, the confederate was a female. Each difficulty ranking survey were given to 10 participants grouped with the same-sex confederate and 10 participants grouped with the opposite-sex confederate. After the test the confederate will express oppositely how difficult the test was and the participant will state what they thought about it. A chi-square test of independence was performed to examine the relation between the direction of change (Towards the confederate) and condition (difficulty). The relation between these variables was insignificant, X2 = (2, N = 38) = 3.68, p = 0.16. College students were less likely to change towards the confederate.
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Conformity is the willing acceptance of group norms. Social pressure influence adolescent and young adult attitudes toward a certain topic, but little is known about the underlying mechanisms. It is necessary to understand if one’s interest in a topic was based on active peer influence or if the assumption that passive (imitation) peer influence is more relevant. In the present study, we examine whether the participants will change difficulty ranking after their interaction with the confederate that has opposite ranking. In the present study, we focused on conformity with the independent variable being the condition (level of difficulty). The dependent variable is the direction of change (towards the confederate response).
Harakeh & Vollebergh (2012) conducted a study to investigate the impacts of active and passive peer influence on young adult smoking. They examined whether passive (imitation) and/or active (pressure) peer influence affects young adult smoking. The hypothesis for their study is that passive peer influence has more impact compared to active peer influence. The research utilizes two theories. The first one is the social cognitive/learning theory of Bandura. The theory indicates that people observe and imitate the behavior of others. This may unknowingly lead to positive rewards like being allowed to belong to the group. The other theory is the perception-behavior link paradigm which indicates that people often imitate the behaviors of others unintentionally. In the study, they included 71 participants. However, three of them were excluded from the study because they were not smoking daily anymore. Only daily smokers were allowed for the study. The participants were students aged 16-25 years. The mean age was 18.21. Of the 68 participants, 26 were male while the rest were female. The 68 participants were involved in a 60-min session during school days. Nine of the participants were exposed two times to peer pressure while smoking just when the confederate expected to give them a cigarette (five participants in the pressure, no smoking condition; four participants in the pressure, smoking condition). A confederate is an actor who participates in a psychological experiment pretending to be a subject but in actuality is working for the researcher. The participants were randomly assigned to the four conditions. The first condition was no pressure, no smoking condition (N = 15). The second condition was smoking, no pressure condition (N = 16). The third condition was pressure, no smoking condition (N = 20). The last category was pressure, smoking condition (N = 17). The study aimed at measuring the smoking behavior of the participants during the session. All the participants in the study smoked daily. In the study, 22.4%, 28.4%, 47.8% and 1.5% of participants smoked 1-5, 6-10, 11-20 and 21-30 cigarettes a day respectively. The result of the study suggest that students confronted with a smoking peer had a higher likelihood to smoke more cigarettes (Harakeh & Vollebergh, 2012).
Dallas, Field, Jones, Christiansen, Rose and Robinson (2014) conducted a study to investigate social influence on alcohol drinking among social acquaintances. In the study they examined whether people are conscious of the influence that their peers or partners drinking behavior may have on their alcohol consumption. The participants partners were given confederate roles. The hypothesis for their study is that the drinking behavior of the participant to will be influenced by how much alcohol the confederate consumed and for the participant to be unconscious of this influence. The study included 92 participants or 46 pairs of social acquaintances aged 16-25 years. The study took place in a semi-naturalistic bar laboratory. In the study, one member of each pair of confederates was randomly selected and tasked to consume only alcohol (alcohol condition) or soft drinks (non alcohol condition) while the pair completed a game together at a bar setting. The other participant was unconscious of the drinking instruction given to the confederate. The researchers measured the extent to which the participants perceived that their peer/ partner had influence their alcohol intakes. Their results revealed that there was a large effect size on the confederates condition on alcohol consumption. The effect of condition on alcohol consumption was substantial, where the number of alcohol drinks selected by the participants in the alcohol condition was significantly greater than in the non alcohol confederate condition. About 81% of the participants were unconscious that their partner had influenced their alcohol drinking intakes. The result of their study show that social acquaintances are influenced by others alcohol consumption and may not be aware of the influence they have on one’s own alcohol consumption (Dallas, Field, Jones, Christiansen, Rose and Robinson, 2014).
Teunissen, Spijkerman, Prinstein, Cohen, Engels & Scholte (2012) conducted a study to investigate adolescents conformity to their peers pro alcohol and anti-alcohol norms. They examined whether adolescents adapted to their willingness to drink when presented with the pro-alcohol and anti-alcohol norms of peers in a chat room session and whether these effects were moderated by the social status of peers. The hypothesis for their study is that adolescents will be more likely to conform to the drinking norms of popular peers and reject the norms of unpopular peers. In the study, they collected data based on social status, drinking behavior and willingness to drink from 532 participants aged 14-15 years old. Out of the 532 participants, 74 males were selected to participate in a simulated internet chat room session in which the participants were presented with preprogrammed pro- alcohol or anti- alcohol norms of preprogrammed e-confederates. E- confederates are computerized confederates that were programmed into the internet chat room posing as grademates. The results of their study revealed that the e-confederates in the “popular” condition were rated as more popular than the e-confederates in the “unpopular” condition (Teunissen, Spijkerman, Prinstein, Cohen, Engels & Scholte, 2012). This means that the majority of students were influenced by the popular students more than the alcohol students and that social status played in role in conformity.
The results of these studies are consistent with a series of studies that have examined this phenomenon and all reached the same general conclusion that when adults meet with other adults they tend to conform to others unconsciously. Based on the studies cited above, it appears there exists significant support for the theory that social pressure influences individuals difficulty ranking. Therefore in the present study, it was hypothesized that there will be change in the individuals response based on the influence of the confederate and it would most likely change towards the direction of the confederate response.
The participants of the present study were all Hunter College students who were patrolling the two bridges on the third floor, the four floor and sixth floor of the west, the library, some of the lounges in the hunter west building and cafeteria from 5:35 to 8:15 pm. They were compensated through measuring knowledge of the subject matter for being involved in the experiment and contributing to science, to help others learn about the topic. In the experiment included 40 participants between the ages of 18 to 38 years Mean age =21.87, (sd=4.04). Twenty of the participants were females while the others were males. There were four confederates. Two of the confederates were males while the others were females. Two participants were excluded from the study because they didn’t want to stay late at school. There were three freshmen, 11 sophomores, 14 juniors, eight seniors, two graduate students, one other student that wasn’t identified, and one missing value. Out of all the participants only one was a math major. In addition, we failed to collect the participants ethnicities due to the limited time length of the data process.
For the present experiment, a desktop computer was used to make two response sheets, one that was easy difficulty (Version B) and one that was of hard difficulty (Version A). Both of the response sheets had four questions. The first question would ask if the student had taken and completed any of the Hunter College Core Mathematics Courses. The second question would ask the participants if they have taken at least one of the math courses to please rate their experience they had in that course from a scale of 1-9, with 1 being (Very negative), 3 being (negative), 5 being (Not negative or positive), 7 being (positive) and 9 being (Very positive). The third question would ask them to solve a math problem pertaining to the difficulty version they had. If they had Version B, the problem was of easy difficulty. In Version B, one had to solve for the exponential value of x. If they had Version A, the problem was of hard difficulty. In Version A, one would have to find the value of x and y from an equation, plug the variables into the function its asking for, and then look at all the answer choices to find the power function answer choice that matched the result. The last question, the participants were prompted to circle the difficulty of the math problem they did pertaining to the version test they took from a scale of 1-9, with 1 being (very easy), 3 being (easy), 5 being (Not easy or positive), 7 (being difficult) and 9 being (Very difficult).
The participants in the present study were seated randomly next to their assigned confederate. The surveyor assigned the participants ID numbers. The participants were each given an ID to keep confidentiality. A surveyor approached the confederates and participants asking them to take a math survey. The survey had a total of 4 questions that were either of easy difficulty or of hard difficulty. The participants were then grouped into four groups, each in a different condition.
In one condition, 10 times when the participants were male, the confederate was a male. In another condition, 10 times the participants were male, the confederate was a female. In another condition, 10 times the participants were female, the confederate was a male. In the last condition 10 times the participants were female, the confederate was a female. Each difficulty ranking survey were given to 10 participants grouped with the same-sex confederate and 10 participants grouped with the opposite-sex confederate. The participants and confederates would answer all four of the questions that depended on what difficulty ranking survey they had.
The participants answered the first question on if they had taken and completed any of the Hunter College Core Mathematics Courses. The participants answered the second question on if they had taken at least one of the math courses to please rate their experience they had in that course from a scale of 1-9, with 1 being (Very negative), 3 being (negative), 5 being (Not negative or positive), 7 being (positive) and 9 being (Very positive). In the third question, the participants answered a math question that was either easy or hard. The participants who took Version B(Easy difficulty), had to solve for the exponential value of x in the equation 24x = 16.
The participants who took Version A(Hard difficulty), had to solve the equation “If 3x-y =12, what is the value of 8x/2y” and choose the correct answer choice. All of the answer choices were power functions. So the answer choices would be a number with an exponent that would have equaled their result from 8x/2y. In the last question, the participants were prompted to circle the difficulty of the math problem they did pertaining to the version test they took by using a 1-9 scale, with 1 being (very easy), 3 being (easy), 5 being (Not easy or positive), 7 (being difficult) and 9 being (Very difficult).
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Conformity was analyzed in two ways. By having the participants circle out their opinion of the exam, we have their original response towards the exam. After the exam, the confederate would express oppositely to the participants on how difficult the test was and ask the participant what they thought of the exam and try to influence the participant to think in their direction. We was looking for if the participants would change most likely towards the confederate response from their original response. It took each of the participants an average of four minutes to participate and complete the task. The entire data process took three hours.
The hypothesis of the study is that there will be change in the individuals response because of the influence of the confederate and it would most likely change into the direction the confederate said. The results of the study were analyzed through descriptive statistics. When we do the analysis, we find that in the easy condition: three people change towards the confederate, zero people changed away from the confederate and 17 people did not change towards the confederate. As for in the difficult condition four people change towards the confederate, two people changed away from the confederate and 12 people did not change towards the confederate. In total, there was seven times the change towards the confederate, two times where they change away from the confederate and 29 times there was no change towards the confederate. A chi-square test of independence was performed to examine the relation between direction of change and condition. The relation between these variables by the likelihood ratio shown that it was insignificant, X2 = (2, N = 38) = 3.68, p = .16. Analyzing the relation between the direction of change and condition with a chi-square test of independence revealed that college students were less likely to change towards the confederate. These results disconfirm our hypothesis which predicted that there will be change in the individuals response because of the influence of the confederate and it would most likely change towards the direction of the confederates response. What we found was that there was change towards the confederate but it was least then we expected.
The hypothesis of our study was disconfirmed. Unexpectedly about 18% changed towards the confederate, 76% of the participants ended up not changing towards the confederate, while 5% changed away from the confederate. What we expected was that there is not going to be a differences across conditions in change and with the results we found out there was not. The results of the present experiment show there was mostly no change in the participants response from the influence of the confederate and most people did not change into the direction of the confederate response. The hypothesis of the study is that there will be change in the individuals response because of the influence of the confederate and it would most likely change into the direction the confederate said. Contradictingly, we found that the most of the participants response did not depend on the opinion of the confederate. In other words, most people response was not influenced by the confederates.
The results of our experiment shows that conformity did not sway an individual’s thought on a subject towards the person applying pressure. These results of the present experiment are consistent with the results of the experiment conducted by Huang, Kendrick, & Yu (2014) in showing that people are swayed by social pressure to a small extent. In their study, they examined the conformity of people through a three month session. In the study, there were 280 digital photographs of the faces of young adult chinese women posing neutral face expressions. The participants were informed they were taking a test on facial attractiveness. The digital photos had a green box surrounding a number that indicated the average option for all the 200 participants. The participants were asked to rate the attractiveness of the photo they saw. They were asked to come a second time and rate the same faces they saw. The results of their study suggest that social conformity in facial attractiveness judgements persist for up to three days but no longer than seven (Huang, Kendrick & Yu, 2014). This result is consistent with our present study because their study suggest that their result was not due to public compliance, which would be expected to result only in highly transient opinion change. The participants were influenced by conformity but to only a small extent. In our present study we found the same to be true.
However the results of the present experiment contradict those of the experiment conducted by Beran, Drefs, Kaba, Baz, Harbi (2015) in showing that those who were exposed to the confederates in the present study weren’t influenced by the confederates response. In their study, they examined the extent to which a groups like-mindedness or groups agreement would be considered a barrier to effective communication and learning by investigating the extent to which graduate students conform to their peers when given a online assignment. In the study, the participants were emailed the instructions on how to access the online environment through Elluminate Live. Elluminate Live is a web program for teaching students. Each person was schedule to sign in at different sessions so that each online session was done with one participants and three confederate who were in actuality posing as other graduate students. Ten multiple questions were given to the participants at one time via powerpoint. Each question and response option were visually presented and read aloud. A response was selected using a polling feature in the online environment. The students were then asked to respond to each question in the same order as their name appeared in the participant panel. In the experimental condition, the participants saw the responses of two confederates first and was asked to respond following the last confederate. In the control group, the polling display feature was turned off so the participants wouldn’t be able to see the confederates responses and turn in their own response. The results of their study show that a higher number of participants who saw an incorrect response were more likely to endorse it than those who had not seen the response given by the confederates (Beran, Drefs, Kaba, Baz, Harbi, 2015). Their result was different because they predicted those who saw the other two confederates response would be influenced by their response and incorrectly answer the question. The confederates created a lack of confidence in the participants making them conform. By having strength in numbers, the participant would lose confident in their answer and decided that the majority would be correct. While the participants who didn’t see the confederate response were confident of their choices because they didn’t have anything to sway their opinion. In this study, those who interacted with the confederates change their original thought of the answer and choose the confederates answer but in our present study, the students weren’t influenced by the confederates response and did not change their thought on how difficult the test was to the extent we had hope for.
The results of the present experiment also contradict those of the experiment conducted by of the experiment conducted by Goodwin, Kukucka & Hawks (2013) in showing that those who were exposed to the confederates in the present study weren’t influenced by the confederates response. In their study, they examined the effects of confidence and conformity on memory for a witnessed event. The study included 126 participants aging 18-31 years old. Of the study, 40 participants were males and the rest were females. Just like in our present study each participant was tested individually with a confederate. The test include powerpoint slides. In the study, an examiner gave the participant and the confederate a math anxiety and personality test where they were asked to look at some slides. After the slides the participant and confederate would rate their comprehension of the slideshow on a 7-point scale. After twenty minutes, the participant and confederate were given a ‘surprise’ memory test. The experimenter asked a series of 26 questions. One person would be given the questioner role and the other answer role. The confederate would often answer first providing incorrect answers in a loud manner meaning that the confederate would say their response out loud. The participant often answered after the confederate. The purpose of this was that the participant would change their response towards the confederates response. Their results was different from our present study results. Their results suggested that the participants were more accurate and provided more misinformation when they answered test questions after the confederate provided their answer (Goodwin, Kukucka & Hawks, 2013). This goes against our results because in their study, the participants were influenced by the confederate and change their opinion of their choice but in our present study, the participant mostly didn’t change what they had originally thought to the extent we hoped for.
Within our study, there were some limitations that affected the validity of the experiment.
One limitation of the present study lies within the number of confederates. When we did the present experiment, we were thinking of group norms in which people would want to go along with others but instead we ended up testing if people would go along with the opinion of one person which was the confederate. We created four groups, each in a different condition. The four confederates would each go into their own groups and influence the participants to think towards them one by one. Instead of having a lot of confederates trying to influence a participant together, we decreased the influence the four would of have if they were together. Part of the power of the confederates was that they were given immunity so together they would produce more influence and the participant would be against a whole group. By splitting them up, there was not as much social pressure in those conditions. With one confederate in each of those groups, there was not much immunity among the confederates to cause the participates to want to change. By having a group who share the same interest, the participant would lack confident in their answer and feel more compelled to not be indifferent by going along with a group. The participant would want to fit in and not stray away from the group or feel alienated. This wasn’t the case with our present experiment. Instead of having a group of confederates, there was only one confederate trying to influence the participant. The participants weren’t compelled to change much. We didn’t control having more than one confederate in a group to trigger a change.
Another limitation of the present study is that people don’t change their beliefs about a topic easily. If a person was doing a test that’s hard to them and saw another person expressing how easy the test was, some people would stick to their belief that the test was hard. Reversely, if a person was doing a test that’s easy to them and saw another person expressing how hard the test was, some people would stick to their belief that the test was easy. There’s a psychotic idea to this in which we expect people to change their idea on what’s hard or easy based on what somebody else says but what we found was that people don’t change that easily. They are not going to change their minds just because one person says something else. People are not that naive and that’s a lesson in oneself . People don’t just go ahead and change in what they believe because we are researchers and we want to manipulate what people say to them.
- Beran, T., Drefs, M., Kaba, A., Baz, N., & Harbi, N. (2015). Conformity of responses among graduate students in an online environment. The Internet and Higher Education, 25, 63.
- Dallas, R., Field, M., Jones, A., Christiansen, P., Rose, A., & Robinson, E. (2014). Influenced but Unaware: Social Influence on Alcohol Drinking Among Social Acquaintances. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 38(5), 1448-1453.
- Goodwin, K., Kukucka, J., & Hawks, I. (2013). Co‐Witness Confidence, Conformity, and Eyewitness Memory: An Examination of Normative and Informational Social Influences. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 27(1), 91-100.
- Harakeh, & Vollebergh. (2012). The impact of active and passive peer influence on young adult smoking: An experimental study. Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 121(3), 220-223.
- Huang, Y., Kendrick, K., & Yu, R. (2014). Conformity to the Opinions of Other People Lasts for No More Than 3 Days. Psychological Science, 25(7), 1388-1393.
- Teunissen, H., Spijkerman, R., Prinstein, M., Cohen, G., Engels, R., & Scholte, R. (2012). Adolescents’ conformity to their peers’ pro-alcohol and anti-alcohol norms: The power of popularity. Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, 36(7), 1257-67.
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