The presence of previous estimations

Sherif (1935) conducted a study where he investigated the emergence of group norms using the autokinetic effect. This is an optical illusion experience where a person is place in a totally dark room in which a stationary point of light appears to move because the persons perceptual system has no reference for it. Subjects were invited to estimate the amount of ‘movement’ they observed.

They made their estimates in groups where each member could hear the others’ estimates. Ultimately, the group members estimates converged into a middle-of-the-road ‘group estimate’. This would appear to show an urge to conform.There is a general acceptance that ‘social influence’ can be seen to consist of two separate components: ‘informational social influence’, where we gain information from other peoples behaviour as a guide to what’s going on, and ‘normative social influence’, where we conform to what we believe to be the norms of the group in order to be accepted by them and not to stand out. The conclusion was that the study showed that when faced with an ambiguous situation, participants look to others for guidance.

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Therefore according to this, linked in with ‘conformity levels in the presence of peoples estimations’ study when faced with the dots my participants should look to the stooges estimates for guidance.Another experiment that is focused on normative social influence is that conducted by Asch (1956). In Asch’s experiments, a group of people were seated around the table. Of these all but one were actually the experimenters confederates.

The group was shown a display of vertical lines of different lengths and were asked to say which of the lines on card B was the same length as another standard line on card A.One after another, the members of the group announced their decision. The confederates had been asked to give incorrect answers. The subject sat in the next to last seat so all but one had given their obviously incorrect answer before s/he gave his/ hers.

Even though the correct answer was always obvious, the average subject conformed to the group response on 32% of the trials and 74% of the subjects conformed at least once. This situation not only emphasises how a lot of people do not want to stand out amongst a group, but also how people look to others for guidance. Therefore according to this, when faced with the dots my participants should conform with the other estimates for guidance, as they will not want their estimate to stand out amongst the others.Perrin and Spencer (1980) tried to repeat Asch’s study in England in the late 1970s .

They found very little evidence of conformity, leading them to conclude that Asch’s effect was a ‘child of its time’. However the low levels of conformity found in Perrin and Spencers study may have occurred because they used engineering students who had been given training in the importance of accurate measurement and therefore had more confidence in their own opinions.The most relevant piece of psychological literature comes from the Crutchfield (1955) experiment.

He thought that face-to-face arrangements in Asch’s procedure may be responsible for the levels of conformity found. So he arranged for participants to be sat in booths out of sight of each other, but all were able to see stimulus cards. This enabled him to collect data in a more economical fashion by running several na�ve participants at the same time. Participants sat individually in booths with a row of switches an d lights in front of them. They had to press which switch that corresponded to their judgement when their turn came to answer. They were told that the lights on the display panel showed the responses of the other participants.

In fact, the experimenter controlled these lights and each participant saw an identical display. When he used Asch’s line experiment in this he found 30% of conformity levels.Investigating this experiment would be interesting if the same trends were evident today using sixth form students, because sixth form students are educated people, but arguably most subject to pressure of not wanting to stand out amongst a group. This experiment will examine whether people conform to other peoples estimations by asking how many ink dots they think are on a piece of paper, with condition A being with the knowledge of other peoples false predictions which they will believe are true predictions, and condition B being with no knowledge of any predictions at all.The aim of the experiment is to investigate the extent to which conformity occurs in the presence of previous estimations. Alternative hypothesis: There will be a greater level of conformity in terms of participants estimates in the presence of stooges estimates. Null hypothesis: There will be no significant difference between conditions A and B, any difference will be due to chance alone.

 Method Design.The design of the study was a laboratory experimental research method using a independent measures design, however the participants were matched as much as possible. Independent measures were used to avoid order effect and demand characteristics. The independent variable (IV) was the presence of stooges estimates in condition A and the dependent variable (DV) was the estimations of the participants.Before conducting the study, a pilot study was conducted to eliminate any problems that may have occurred; fortunately there were none. 3417 dots were chosen because it is a high number and therefore provides an ambiguous situation because the correct answer is not clear and research shows that participants are more likely to conform in ambiguous situations.

 Ethics To include participants in the investigation, ethical considerations had to be made.Participants were briefed before the experiment, which told them what it entailed and what they were required to do. The briefing usually tells participants the aim of the experiment in full, however for the cause of the experiment, slight deception was needed, so the total aim could not be disclosed. This is because half of the participants had to be led to believe that the stooges estimates put before them were real. This emphasises how essential de-briefing is as an ethical consideration so participants can be told the absolute full nature of the study. Participants were also made aware that they did not have to take part in the experiment and that they could leave at any time.Participants The 24 participants of the experiments were independent measures.

This was done to avoid order effect. The sample used was a stratified sampling method. Attempts were made to match participants as much as possible but not enough for them to be called matched pairs. All participants were 17 years old, attended the same 6th form, had similar academic abilities and in mathematics according to their AS level exam results they were of extremely similar abilities, and they were matched accordingly with the same sex. No participants studied psychology. This was a precaution took to avoid participants guessing the nature of the experiment.Material The materials used were 1 piece of paper with 3417 dots drawn on, another piece of paper with stooges estimates on and a table in which participants estimates could be recorded. (refer to appendix) Procedure First of all the procedure involved the experimenter, briefing both sets of participants.

Both groups needed to be briefed separately (refer to appendix) as 1 group needed slightly different information as they were to be deceived slightly, as this was necessary to the investigation.The first group of participants were informed that they were to look at the piece of paper given to them for 15 seconds only and then they were to give their best estimates of the number of dots that they thought was on the page. Participants were also made aware that the numbers on the other piece of paper given to them was previous estimations of other students. Students were to look at the paper individually.

This was ‘condition A, in the presence of false estimates’. False estimates were close to actual answer. In ‘condition B, no guidance from previous estimations’, participants were not given stooges estimations. When the experiment was finished all participants were debriefed together.Briefing This psychological experiment is part of my year 13 coursework. The aim of this experiment is to measure social influence and I would like you to take part (as my participants). When called I would like you to enter the room and observe the piece of paper given to you with dots on for 15 seconds only. The other piece of paper has previous students estimations on it.

Then you are to write down your estimate of the number of dots you think are on the paper on a separate piece of paper provided. You are asked not to discuss the experiment with other participants, in particular your estimation. You do not have to take part if you do not wish to and you are allowed to leave the experiment at any time. Your information will not be used for any other purpose and all information is confidential.