Sherif's Theory Of Conformity

Words: 1217
Pages: 5

Numerous classic psychological studies and historical evidence show that identification with a particular group can lead to dreadful outcomes. From the 1950s, a consensus was widely spread that tyranny triumphs because ordinary people blindly follow orders or mindlessly conform to powerful roles. A series of classic field experiments in social psychology seemed to confirm the idea of the banality of evil – a phase, which refers to the observation that people who commit evil acts appear to be unremarkable and indistinguishable from other members of society (Arendt, 1963).

Sherif (1936) conducted a study on conformity. This experiment tested how people were influenced by others in their perception and judgement of the autokinetic effect. Sherif
…show more content…
A famous experiment – The Robbers Cave Study investigated group conflict and supported this theory by evidence. Sherif (1954) conducted an experiment with 24 schoolboys, all of the protestant background, who were culturally and physically similar. The boys were divided and groups were created, one group spontaneously called themselves “The Rattlers” and the other similarly took the name of “The Eagles”. Two experimentally formed groups were soon put into conflict with each other and intergroup tension was created. Negative stereotypes were formed; such as believing that in-group members are brave and friendly (described in favourable terms) while the members of the opposing group – sneaky (described in unfavourable terms). However, this experiment also included an integration phase, which involved bringing both conflicting groups into cooperation through the creation of superordinate goals. After introducing tasks, which required for groups to work together, friendships slowly began to form across the two groups. The Robber’s Cave Study concluded that after common goals, the boundaries between groups faded out and the boys asked to leave the camp together in a single bus. In addition to that, one of the Sherif’s studies (1953), which, unfortunately, was never published, the boys refused to be divided and, all together, resisted …show more content…
Milgram (1963, 1974) conducted one of the most controversial studies – an obedience experiment. As part of this experiment, experimenter then instructed the participants to administer mounting levels of electric shock to a ‘learner’ each time they made an error. Every single ‘teacher’ was prepared to administer ‘intense shocks’ of 300 volts. The results were disturbing - 65 per cent of the participants fully complied with the experimenter’s (authority figure) demands and progressed to 450 volts – delivered a fatal voltage on another person. Participants fully obeyed instructions and delivered traumatising electric shocks to an innocent victim. The results showed that people can go over the limits easily and without a doubt, just because they are told to do so, they start to blindly believe in the authority figure – lost self-conscious and sense of responsibility. Milgram concluded that ordinary people are capable of cruelty through unthinking