<< 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

This morning you are doing good
Swarray Reply
still sleeping
rameez
How did Emile Durkheim defined sociology
Larweh Reply
Durkhiem gv broadly three definitions of sociology respectively viz. Sociology is the science of collective representation (in div. of labour 1893), sociology is d science of social institutions and sociology is the science of social facts( in his rules of sociological methods 1895 )
rameez
what are some branch of sociology?
Kollie
sociology of health and medicine sociology of Education
DIY
Sociology is a braod subject of social science it has different sub fields i.e Sociology of Education, Sociology of Politics, Medical Sociology, Social Anthropology, Social Psychology, Criminology, Sociology of Law, Population Studies, Rural Sociology, Urban Sociology, Social Change, Biological Soci
Sadiq
Evolutionary Theory ?
Madiha Reply
theories that describe how culture and societies change over time.
manisha
evolutionary theories given by August comte and Herbert spencer ?
Madiha
comte describes 3 stages social evolution theory. there is drawin theory of evolution also.
manisha
comte hs talked abt three evolutionary stages theological, metaphysical & positive respectively thr societies, sciences, mind's or even individuals has passed as per him, whl as per Spencer societies has pssd frm military to industrial societies.
Rameez
thr which.... societies
Rameez
thankx all of u
Madiha
The first stage, the theological stage, illustrates a time prior to 1300 where all phenomena is explained by divine and supernatural forces or beings that are given concreteness through the symbolism of priestly castes.[10,6] The social and physical world is viewed as being produced by God. 
manisha
The second stage, the metaphysical stage, occurrs between 1300 and 1800, and is characterized by a belief that the divine powers illustrated in stage one become abstract forces
manisha
The last stage, the positivistic stage, occured from 1800 to the present and employs only empirical facts and scientific laws to explain the phenomena that the divine and abstract forces explained previously. 
manisha
Comte believed that groups, societies, sciences, individuals, and minds all go through these stages.[3] Each step one takes in these three stages is a step towards a more complete level of knowledge.
manisha
still alive.. 🙄 gonna late. erly to bed erly to early to rise makes man, healthy, wealthy n wise. Only Men ap yha b safe hai.
Rameez
reservation khub ml rhe hai.. aish kru.. Enjoy n estay blssd.!
Rameez
thankx both of u
Madiha
what do we means by sociology
Kollie
what the students of sociology do for the society?
Kollie
sociology in simpler terms is the subject which deals wd the systematic, analytic and scientific study of society.
rameez
welcome Madiha
rameez
rameez sir ap kal bol rahe the na UGC k notes k bare mai vo apko KU ki website pe b kuch mile ge ...
Madiha
achh...thank you so much Madiha.. at least ksi ne kal ki query ka reply krra. Allah blss! 😊
rameez
its ok ...ap notes b lasakhte hai ..kisi institute se..asani se mile ge ...
Madiha
institute se..?
rameez
I mn NET k coaching institute sociology me... h khe pe srinagar me
rameez
UGC k notes bol rahi hu ...
Madiha
ji Madiha.. UGC NET huta actually, in other words unv grants commission, NET ka, (national eligibility test ka) ka exam conduct krta h.
rameez
aur so UGC NET khlata h.
rameez
ahh. superficially bt um always serious how can I go, I think I shd start from Basics preferably ignou BA material.......aphi ne bola tha ns kal ...aphi ki commnt hai :p ....UGC ...under graduate course b hota hai na :p
Madiha
आप में से कौन मध्यप्रदेश की अस्सिस्टेंट प्रोफेसर की exam दे रहे है ? sociology subject से
virendra
ohh, yh btt h. Madiha..
rameez
ji huta h yu are rt Madiha.
rameez
bt bt Madiha ws talking abt ignou BA, and I feel ignou BA study material are far bttr then KU,.
rameez
is...
rameez
ok sir ...i was just trying 2 hlp u ...
Madiha
waise b ap ne complt kra. Kh chunne, you don't wanna give Madiha, No problem, it's ok!
rameez
ok Mam Madiha. Nice of you. . humbled n pleased. thanx alot.!
rameez
one can easily get ugc net of sociology on mrunal site. just type sociology mrunal notes. u will get complete notes. all the best for ugc net.
manisha
these are ignuo notes free download available on mrunal site.
manisha
ignou notes for ma n ba plus 12th ncert notes.
manisha
thanx mam Manisha definitely will search for mrunal.. Thanx alot.!
rameez
wow.! ol ignou notes n ncert also. .. dtz really good.
rameez
nice,thnxx much. God blss mam!
rameez
m happy to help you. my thanks is to mrunal who is providing notes.
manisha
I see, thanx, thank you All
rameez
hello sociologists
MANJI
hlo
Sajad
Hello
Rong
what is epistemology?
owolabi Reply
epistemology is the branch of philosophy . it is the study or science of knowledge
Madiha
epistemology is the branch of philosophy that study the theory of knowledge with its nature.
Floxy
what is kinship
Sukesh Reply
it can also be referred as relationship or closer relative of a person or things
Michael
bunch of relationship and relatives, these are based on blood relationship or marriage.
manisha
refer to relation ship i think
Musawir
a group of people related by either blood or marriage. ...kinship
vivek
right
Naqeeb
It is one of the basic social institutions . In simple words it is the bond of blood or marriage which binds people together in group
Madiha
kins are classified into 3 types ... primary secondary and tertiary kins primary are like husbNd -wife , father - son bla bla secondary like mothers brother , sisters husband bla bla tertiary like wife's brother's son ..bla bla
Madiha
nice, madiha 👍
Rameez
by the way um learning sociology at ignou Sopore, any recommendations for ugc net plz. you are welcome n thanx much! 😊
Rameez
Is a relationship between the members of the same family
Floxy
whom u r asking rameez ?
Madiha
oh um xcused mam, forgot to mention ua name. was asking you mam Madiha
Rameez
i m doing BA at srinagar ...my BA is going to complete after 2 months ..i m not an experienced prsn ...soo i cant suggest u anything 😛
Madiha
ohh 😊.. nice wish you best of luck!
Rameez
thankx
Madiha
I would suggest you... Study first all the sociological thoughts... get your concept clear...
sociological thght frm whr. thnx anonymous user. 😓😓😓
Rameez
when are you planning to write...
write wht? Um writing but none understand ma.... Do you mn Sir, abt to appear in Exam?
Rameez
now then go superficially...
ahh. superficially bt um always serious how can I go, I think I shd start from Basics preferably ignou BA material
Rameez
is ignou BA material available in pdf. Anybdy plz
Rameez
Ohh.. I hv high respects n regards for HIJAB. hatsoff.. the truth is sometimes I intentionally wish to break barriers and meet Soul//s otherhalf..ok nt this day let smwhr else or otherday.. InshaAllah.. . thanx anonymous, thanx everybody!! um learner xcused for rubbish Allah blss!
Rameez
can anyone tell me ...which subject is best for masters ... Sociology or psychology?
Madiha
sure sociology thn psychology
Rameez
bt I feel English is the best in terms of various parameters
Rameez
thankx for ur suggestions sir
Madiha
Kinship means blood relationship. Madiha has explained it well. For a meticulous reading I would suggest Kinship and Marriage: An Anthropological perspective by Robin Fox
APA
kinship is nt jus blood relatnshp, it includes affinal as well as putative or fictive relationships - the hallmark of primitive or anthropological studies,wch forms the base wdout which sociological studies are incomplete.. 😊
Rameez
Rameez... You do not have so much time... so you better see in general...
what is the post modernist view on society?
onno Reply
what is deviance
Karamat
the gap between institionalized means and culturally approved goals is called deviance.. the violation of norms ia called deviance. every criminal can be deviant but not all deviant can be crimanl
Mohsin
Truth is a matter of subjectivity. It varies from one person to another. There isn't anything like absolute truth for the post modernists
sagar
@onno lisa
sagar
what is reality
Miatta
means Actions or behaviors that violate formal and informal cultural norms such as laws and customs.
Stephanus
What is hypothesis?
Suti Reply
hypothesis is a process where by scientists makes their guess
Gideon
statement created by researchers to speculate the outcome of a reasearch or experiment.
manisha
It is a created statement that can predict the outcome of the reasearch
Stephanus
Have this app is not in hindi medium
mukesh Reply
yes true its not
manisha
define culture in terms of material and non-material aspects.
pervious Reply
culture is an art of living in one's own society by sharing the same values and norms. These sentiments are accentuated through & reflected in certain clothing styles, eating habits & totems of the members of the society
sagar
thanks dey. now how can you define it in terms of material and nonmaterial?
pervious
Material culture is the physical aspect of culture in the objects and architecture that surround people. It includes usage, consumption, creation, and trade of objects as well as the behaviors, norms, and rituals that the objects create or take part in.
sagar
non-material culture does not include any physical objects or artifacts. Examples of non-material culture include any ideas, beliefs, values, norms that may help shape society.
sagar
thanks Sagar
pervious
no problem dear
sagar
Sagar explain Herbert Spencer's theory on sociology
Clara
Social control is attributed to whom?
Moses
@clara - ***study.com/academy/lesson/herbert-spencer-theory-social-darwinism.html
sagar
@Moses - Ivan Nye
sagar
briefly describe the nature of siciology with example?
funny Reply
The nature of sociology is dynamic. It encompasses the administration, politics, economy, geography, religion, morality & psychology of various societies. It is a subject of perspectives, and therefore celebrates the art of looking at our society from different dimensions, thus making it fascinating
sagar
identity the relevance of family background to learner's education aspirations
pervious Reply
what do we call a blood relations
Adoubou Reply
family
pervious
disuss the idea of social differentation reintingration and adptation (durkheim weber parson smalser difine how these three postulate's can be a scaffolding of neonvolutionism (smith anthory D 1973
niruta Reply
how are the rights of weman greatly affecting production in all sectors e.g economic , political and social sector
luther Reply
bb
niruta
what is a neonvolutionism
niruta
Neoevolutionism is concerned with long-term, directional, evolutionary social change and with the regular patterns of development that may be seen in unrelated, widely separated culture
ede
identity the relevance of family background to learner's education aspirations
pervious
How can I download haralambus
danielle Reply
with an internet connection
sagar
haaaa....Right
RAJES
socialization and social interaction ism , how can we relate ?
Anil

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