Memory: The Multi-Store Memory Model

Guess who’s back?  It’s me, on schedule.  Guess anyway, for my enjoyment.   Still me.  Congratulations.  You get a toffee.

We’re talking about the Multi-Store Memory Model this time around, which suits me wonderfully, because I really like the Multi-Store Memory Model.  I’m going to break down the different parts of the Multi-Store Memory Model before I put them all together for you, for my sake as much as for yours – revision – that sort of carrot.

The first thing in the Multi-Store Memory Model is the sensory register, whilst the next two parts are the Short-Term Memory and the Long-Term Memory.  If you aren’t sure about the Short-Term Memory and Long-Term Memory, I’m going to ask you to take a step back and have a look at the last post, which goes into a lot of detail on these.

The Sensory Register is the stuff that your body picks up from the outside – that’s things like sounds, sights, smells and sensations.  An example would be that I can hear music, see my laptop screen, smell… not much, feel the fan in my room and feel my ponytail between my shoulder blades.  The thing is, you need to pay attention to these things for them to actually register into the memory, as the Sensory Memory only lasts for milliseconds.  If you don’t pay attention to them, they simply decay.

If you do pay attention to them, they travel through into the short-term memory, which – as we know – lasts for around 18 seconds or less: more than the sensory memory.  Of course, we don’t remember all of our short-term memories, either, past 18 seconds.  This is because we need to rehearse the things in our short-term memories in order for them to pass into the infinite long-term memory.  If we don’t rehearse them, they simply decay, just like sensory memories.

In terms of actually remembering things, the Multi-Store Model suggests that long-term memories are passed back into the short-term memory if we want to allow for their expression.

The studies that we covered in the previous post are all supposed to support the Multi-Store Memory (Peterson and Peterson, Baddeley, Bahrick).  Additionally, brain scans have shown that different areas of the brain are active when different types of memory are being used.  For example, Beardsley found that the prefrontal cortex is active in STM, but not LTM tasks.  Squire found that the hippocampus is active when the LTM is engaged.

Additionally, a case study of a patient called HM also supports the Multi-Store Memory Model.  HM had the hippocampus removed from either side of his brain to treat severe epilepsy.  From this point onwards, although he retained his intelligence and personality, he could not form new Long-Term Memories, though his old ones remained in tact.  This is a phenomenon called anterograde amnesia, and it’s something that you might recognise from the popular thriller novel and film, Before I Go To Sleep.

However, the Multi-Store Memory Model is considered to be too simple.  This criticism is prevailing and also mostly accurate – or we wouldn’t study the Working Memory Model.  This is because it divides the Long- and Short-Term Memory into single, separate unitary stores, when the Working Memory Model suggests that there are different types of Short-Term Memory, and that memory depends on these, as well as on how long and how much information can be stored in the brain at one time.  Furthermore, rehearsal doesn’t explain how people can form Long-Term Episodic memories, either.  We’ll get onto the different types of memory soon.  Most researchers also consider the separation of Long- and Short-Term Memories to be inaccurate: Ruchkin believes that the Short-Term Memory is actually just a part of the Long-Term Memory.

Furthermore, Craik and Lockhart suggest that maintenance rehearsal is not the best way of retaining information, but that there are different levels of processing which are dependent on how complicated a task is.  These are called ‘deep’ and ‘shallow’ processing.  Craik and Tulving, for example, gave participants a noun and asked if it was written in capital letters (shallow processing) or if it was fitted into a sentence (deep processing).  Those who were asked if the noun was fitted into a sentence tended to remember the noun more often than those who were asked if it was printed in capital letters.


That’s the Multi-Store Memory Model covered!  As you can see, it’s a good start, but it definitely isn’t a complete model of how memory works.  That’s why we’ll be covering the Working Memory Model next.  The Working Memory Model also isn’t wholly accurate – but it’s a lot closer to the mark; we’ll refine and refine and refine until our extinction as a species, if you ask me.  It’s a scary thought, but it also means we’ll never stop learning, and so we’ll never truly die.



Social Influence: The Role of Social Influence in Social Change

As obvious as it sounds, social change happens constantly.  It’s a process that never really ends, and it certainly doesn’t get old.  A topical example of one of our most recent attempts at social change is the Black Lives Matter movement – which, unfortunately, at the moment, still seems to be a matter of social change through minority influence.  And, whilst it’s unprofessional, this is my blog, so I’m just going to point out that it’s up to us to make it a majority, not a minority.

Both minority and majority influence can influence social change, but I’m going to start with minority influence, because that is what the textbook starts with.  I’m sorry.  I don’t make the rules.  (Actually, I do).

The first thing that a minority needs to do to begin the process of social change is draw attention to an issue.  I would think that makes a fair amount of sense, because nobody can be aware that there’s an issue unless their attention is first brought to it, notwithstanding those who are particularly adept critical thinkers.   When this happens, it causes something called a cognitive conflict in the majority, who find that their beliefs are at odds with another set of beliefs.  This tends to make the majority group examine their beliefs more deeply, which can lead to them either dismissing the conflicting minority view or moving towards it.

Minorities are supposedly more effective at bringing about social change when their views stay consistent over a period of time and between each other.  The textbook doesn’t actually go into why this causes social change but I would propose that it’s partially because this consistency means that the majority can’t just ignore and forget the minority view, and also because it suggests a firmness of mind that people en masse tend to uphold as a positive trait.

In addition to this, something called the augmentation principle states that if a minority is seen as willing to suffer for their beliefs, the majority are more likely to accept the minority values.  Of course, sometimes the minority aren’t willing to suffer, yet the majority cause them suffering nonetheless, which is unfortunate and prevailingly common.  The augmentation principle causes the minority to be seen as more committed than the majority – such as in the case of the suffragettes’ hunger strike.

Finally, after all of this, the last thing left is the snowball effect, which is our fifth step.  I’m sure you’re perfectly capable of understanding the analogy, but I’m going to patronise you anyway, because this is my revision, and I deserve this.  The snowball effect is based on the idea that a snowball starts off very small, often no larger than a fist, which, fittingly – in this instance – is the same size as a heart.  As it travels, it picks up more and more snow, until quite suddenly, it is not heart-sized, but tree-sized.  Or – that’s an exaggeration, but it’s conceivable.  The same applies to minority influence: there is a sudden moment in which we realise that our minority is no longer a minority, but it has reached the tipping point and become a majority.  In the case of the suffragette movement, this resulted in all women in the UK eventually getting the vote.

In spite of this sounding like – and really, being, a simple process, it’s very important to consider that social change through minority influence often happens very gradually indeed.  This is because most people naturally conform to the status quo – which brings us back to normative social influence and compliance, if you can remember those: they were the ones which discussed the innate human need not to meet disapproval from a majority.  This makes the time it takes for minority influence to have an effect make a lot of sense – people are afraid of the consequences of challenging the status quo, and the result is that not doing so simply becomes a natural consequence, and so it takes time for a minority influence to become prevalent – just like it takes time to roll a snowball up to a massive size.

In addition, minorities are often seen as deviant.  This ties directly into the above, and the natural human fear of meeting disapproval from our peers.  Because of this fear, individuals often purposefully choose not to align themselves with a minority, regardless of whether or not they actually agree with their point of view, out of a fear of being met with extreme disapproval.

In some cases, a minority will find a way of reducing the extent to which they are viewed as deviant.  For example, when Marx and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto, they were proposing a view that was contrary to the majority’s point of view, yet claimed that their interests were the same as the majority’s interests.  In this case, it was identifying with the proletariat and against the bourgeoisie.

One fun little anecdote here, which only ties in with the topic tangentially, but might nonetheless help you remember that this can be the case, is in the case of George Eliot and Charles Dickens.  It is fact, now, that George Eliot was writing when – as a woman – it wasn’t entirely legal for her to do so.  Dickens, as a man, was allowed to write.  George Eliot’s solution to this was to write under a male pen name (much like the Bronte sisters, Anne, Emily, and Charlotte, who went by Acton, Ellis, and Currer for the first stretch of time after publishing their novels).  Dickens, somehow, saw through this, and wrote to Eliot, essentially saying nothing more than – ‘I won’t tell, but I know you’re a woman’.  In this instance, although the majority belief had a direct impact on George Eliot, she still conformed to it out of fear of what would happen if she didn’t – and Charles Dickens recognised this and covered for her, which is good of him.

Wow, okay, that was messy – I’m sorry.  I don’t really have any justification, other than the fact that I like analogies quite a lot.  Also, psychology isn’t where my heart lies; creative writing is, and if I have the chance to hone my writing skills, you bet I will – that’s why I’m writing this blog.  That was a fun tangent.  Onwards!

Now that we’ve talked about the impact that minority influence has on social change, we can talk about majority influence.  I also woke up a bit there, somewhere between consistency and the augmentation principle, so I should be able to keep us all a bit more engaged.  That being said, I couldn’t find a piece of wood just now, and instead knocked on my head rather hard, so we’ll see how that turns out.

The main way of approaching social change through social influence is through something called a social norms intervention, which is sort of what it sounds like.  Before we get onto that, though, I’m going to explain the point of a majority influencing social change.

I know that one or two or more of you are probably wondering why social change through majority influence is necessary, because surely no social change can take place.  That’s a good point, but it’s also one that we can contest quite easily.  See, sometimes the minority group consistently does something harmful, and they need to be swayed not to do so by the majority – for example, drinking and driving.

In some cases, the minority does these things because they believe that the majority does so, and in these instances, a social norms intervention is called for.  Social norms campaigns involve media strategies to challenge the individuals’ faulty perceptions of what the standard for majority behaviour is.  The people executing the social norms interventions thusly hope that this will lead the individuals to correct their perceptions, thus putting less people in danger.

Interestingly enough, this brings us full circle, right back to the beginning, although I’m by no means finished yet.  This is because, as you might remember we studied normative social influence, and the ‘most of us don’t smoke’ campaign, which brought the number of adolescents who reported that the smoke down considerably.

The same sort of thing applies here, wherein we’re going to talk about a campaign that was simply titled ‘Most of Us Don’t Drink And Drive’.  Here’s the obligatory warning against drinking and driving.  Unlike the smoking warning, there’s no alternative to not drinking and driving just don’t do it.  If there’s an emergency, grab an Uber.  Don’t risk other people’s lives.

And that’s why they implemented this campaign.  A Montana-based survey of young people aged 21-34 revealed that 20.4% of individuals had driven within one hour of consuming two or more drinks in the previous month.  That’s a lot, even if it is technically the minority, and clearly a social norms intervention was justly called for, in this instance.  However, when asked about it, 92% of respondents claimed that they believed their peers did so – which is a lot of people, and also makes you wonder about that leftover 8% – but let’s try and stay on topic, for once.  However, once some of Montana’s councils put up signs in their local areas which said ‘Most Of Us Don’t Drink And Drive’, they found that the rate of drink-driving fell by 13.7% in comparison to the areas which did not run the survey.  This suggests that social norms interventions are very effective, and are more than indicated in cases where a strong or significant minority seems to be displaying harmful behaviours.

It should be noted that – as is often the case – social norms interventions have not always led to social change.  DeJong tested the effectiveness of various marketing campaigns and found that in spite of rigorous social norms intervention, students on 14 different campuses reported neither a changed perception of how often their peers drank, nor did it cause them to consume less alcohol.

Additionally, even though social norms interventions are targeted at people whose behaviours are less desirable than the norm, they also reach people whose behaviours are more desirable than the norm.  If these people receive information about what is and is not the norm, they will adjust their behaviour to fit it.  Schultz, for example, found that whilst one social norms intervention caused excessive energy consumers to reduce their energy consumption, it caused conservative energy consumers to increase their consumption.  This is counterproductive, as well as being more than a little bit harmful to the environment.

That’s social influence!  We did it, folks!  Any questions can of course be put to me in the comments, and I will endeavour to answer them to the best of my abilities.  Otherwise, brace yourselves for Memory, coming soon to a blog near you!  (This one.  It’s this blog.  Hi.)

Social Influence: Minority Influence

Second to last topic!  We’ve almost made it, folks!  Congrats!  Get ready for Memory after this.  200% sure I said Attachment in the last post – sorry about that.

Minority Influence!  We’ve spoken at length about Majority Influence, but not much at all about Minority Influence.  The title speaks for itself just a little.  Minority Influence is about how less people can influence more people, eventually causing social change.  The suffragette movement is a very important example of how minority influence was able to cause social change.  The process of Minority Influence is also sometimes called conversion, as it implies a change from one point of view to another.  We also need to talk about a psychologist called Moscovici, who gave people an ambiguous green/blue colour test and examined whether two confederates could change the mind of the majority of naive participants.

There are a few main things needed for conversion to take place: consistency, commitment, and flexibility.  I can already picture a few gears whirring at that last one, because flexibility seems like a contradiction of the last two.  I get you, I’m with you – don’t worry; all will soon become clear.  Stay zen.

Consistency means that the minority maintains its point of view over a period of time.  It is supposed to make social influence more likely because it causes the majority group to consider the reasons why someone would stick to a point of view perceived as being risky over a longer period of time.  In Moscovici’s study, there was a ‘consistent’ condition and an ‘inconsistent’ condition.  In the ‘consistent’ condition, the minority claimed the colour was green in all trials.  In the ‘inconsistent’ condition, they claimed it was green in only two thirds of the trials.  The inconsistent minority exerted very little influence, but the consistent minority caused the majority to say that the colour was green 8% of the time, demonstrating the importance of consistency in minority influence.

Commitment means that the minority’s views seem unshakeable and quite unchangeable (this is where we begin to see the confusion with flexibility – more on this to come).  It suggests certainty and courage, even if the majority is hostile.  This is especially important because the costs of being in a minority group are perceived as greater than being in a majority group.  This can cause a majority group to take a minority group more seriously than they otherwise would.

There’s a tipping point in commitment, wherein a majority of people are swayed by a committed minority.  In a study by Xie, if the listener in a chat room holding a majority point of view spoke to someone with a differing point of view, they would listen, and then move onto the next chat, and if the next individual held the same differing point of view, the listener would adopt that.  The percentage of committed opinion-holders required for this shift to occur was only 10%, which isn’t a big number at all.

Flexibility, which is honestly the opposite of commitment (I know I keep saying it and not doing it – we will go into it, we just need to go through the basics first).  Flexibility is considered important for minority groups as they must negotiate their viewpoint with the majority group, as the majority group are considered more likely to reject them.   A non-flexible minority is supposedly seen by the majority as being dogmatic, according to Mugny.  That being said, and this is where we begin to get into that frustrating contradiction, if a minority is too flexible, they are seen as inconsistent.

Nemeth and Brilmeyer found evidence for the influence of flexibility in minority influence in a study which simulated a jury-situation discussing compensation for a car accident.  A confederate who put forth a differing view to the majority and refused to compromise had little effect, whilst one that was willing to compromise and negotiate influenced the majority, though only if they shifted late, as those who shifted early were seen as inconsistent.  As I’ll go into more in a moment, it’s a sliding scale of grey, not a black-and-white kind of thing.

I suppose that the best way to navigate the flexibility/consistency conundrum is through acknowledging that there’s a level of balance that needs to be struck.  Psychology is the same as morality; experts will try to convince you that it’s all black and white, but it’s far from it.

Mackie suggests that minority influence doesn’t actually cause people to examine their own points of view as people have a tendency to dismiss the minority’s opinion out of hand.  He suggests instead that because we tend to believe that the majority holds a similar opinion to ours, that we are more likely to examine our points of view if the majority around us express a different opinion.

There are two more evaluation points which you can go through the textbook and examine, or I’ll go through at a later date.  If you’re doing a paper, rest assured that three well-developed evaluation points are enough to get you 16 marks in an essay.  Unfortunately, Paper One is in six days, and I need to cover everything, which – given that I’m working on about four and a half hours of sleep today – is a task.  Next up is the role of Social Influence in Social Change, and then we’re done with Social Influence, and we’ll move onto memory, which I’m personally looking forward to!

Social Influence, Resistance to Social Influence

Mercifully for every single one of us, nothing else in the specification is as long as Obedience is.  I, personally, can feel myself beginning to breathe again.

We’re onto Resistance to Social Influence now.  Like the Multi-Store Memory Model, this is another topic that I really like, just because I think it’s pretty cool.  Nothing to do with primary school arithmetic here – it’s just an interesting topic.

There are two different explanations for Resistance to Social Influence: Locus of Control and Social Support.  Before I go any further, I’m going to state for the record that for this year’s Paper One (7th June 2017), it is exceptionally unlikely that this will come up as an essay question, as it’s in one of the specimen practice papers.  You should probably still try and learn it though.

Locus of Control

To hold this up even more, I’m actually going to fill out a Locus of Control Questionnaire before we go any further, just to get a refresher on the specifics of it.  Also, questionnaires are fun.

I’m back.  On the 13 item inventory, my score was ‘3’ which indicates a high internal locus of control.  Of course, I’d like to state for the record that different people interpret the questions on these things differently, and this particular ‘dispositional’ questionnaire – perhaps more than any other – is massively influenced by a person’s life experiences.

Okay, onwards!  You might have guessed from the above that a locus of control can be highly internal, highly external, or somewhere in the middle.  A highly internal locus of control means that a person feels that they, above any others, are responsible for the things that happen to them, whilst an external locus of control suggests that outside influences have more responsibility.

Just to make it even clearer, ‘locus’ means place, so Locus of Control literally means ‘place of control’.

Internalistic individuals supposedly place less importance on the opinions of others and are more independent, making them more able to resist social influence.  Externalistic individuals tend to be a bit more passive and fatalistic.  Here is where I point out that there is no way that I didn’t – subconsciously or otherwise – display something called the social desirability bias when I filled out that questionnaire.

Supposedly, the number of externals is increasing, which I don’t necessarily buy.  According to Twenge, teens’ feelings that the misfortunes that occur so them are external have increased dramatically between 1965 and 2002, suggesting a more external locus of control.   Twenge puts this down to the level of alienation experienced by modern teens.   That last bit redeems him, just a little bit.

There are a few reasons why high internals are more able to resist social influence.  They are supposedly very active seekers of information, which probably means that they’re more likely to validate this information where necessary, too.  You should note, here, that this means that locus of control has an impact on normative social influence, but not informational social influence.  That makes sense, in this context, because it’s pretty hard to find information that’s entirely new, especially before being given information by someone else which you can then build on.

They also tend to be achievement-oriented, which makes them more likely to be leaders than followers – internally centred leaders also tend to be more goal oriented than externally centred leaders.  Individuals with a high internal locus are also supposedly better able to resist coercion from others, with the difference between internals and externals becoming more pronounced the more pressure there is.

Social Support

We’ve actually already talked a little bit about Social Support.  Do you remember how, when Asch gave his participant the support of a confederate, the average conformity rate dropped from 33% to 5.5%?  That’s partially the result of social support.

The general belief about social support is that it works because it breaks the unanimity of the majority (hey – we’ve spoken about that, too!).  Breaking the unanimity of the majority has the knock-on effect of suggesting that there are other ways of thinking about a situation that are equally as valid.  This makes people feel more confident in standing up against a majority.

Interestingly, in a variation where the participant always answered last, social support was more effective if it was offered from the first answering confederate than if it was offered from the second-to-last answering confederate.  This suggests that response order is important in reinforcing social support.  It also didn’t need to be valid – in a variation by Allen and Levine in which the support was given very thick glasses to wear, suggesting that they had poor vision, the level of conformity was still reduced.  That being said, it was higher if the support had ‘normal’ vision, suggesting that validity of the support still has some effect.

Additionally, if one person is disobedient, that can cause other people, who may doubt the morality of a situation, to follow.  People often feel that they can’t display disobedience because of others’ obedience suggesting that obedience is the ‘correct’ way.  Take a shot every time I write ‘obedience’ – or don’t.  Individuals tend to be more confident in their ability to disobey if they can find someone to disobey with them.  I have an example here which I quite like.  For the sake of anonymity, I’m changing the names of the girls in the example to Lilly and Mae.  At my old school, there was a spate of theft, wherein the phones of teachers and students alike began to go missing.  Eventually, it emerged that Lilly had been stealing them, but that she wouldn’t do so unless Mae was present because she didn’t want to do it alone.  Do you see the point there?  People like to have allies when they disobey.

This is also reflected in one of Milgram’s variations.  In one variation, he carried out the study with participants in groups of three.  If one person refused to give a shock, it was very likely that the other two people in the group would follow.  In stark contrast to the 65% who delivered the 450V shock in the original variation, only 10% delivered the full 450V shock in the ‘ally’ variation, suggesting that the presence of allies can be liberating for individuals in these situations.

A key example of social support in a real-life situation is the 1943 Rosentrasse Protest.  Over 2000 Jewish men whose wives and/or children (non-Jewish) protested their imprisonment were set free, in spite of the threats that if the women did not disperse, the Gestapo would open fire.  This is often cited as evidence that the provision of an ally provides sufficient support to liberate people from the fear of being disobedient.

…And we’re done!  We’re nearly done with social influence, too – two more topics, and then we’re onto attachment!

Social Influence: Obedience

It’s the long one, folks.  You get limp claps from me if you get through the whole thing.  Only limp ones, though, considering I’m doing all the work here.

So, Obedience.  The book starts with Milgram, whilst the specification starts with agentic state and the legitimacy of authority.  You do need to know what Milgram did, but I’m going to do here what I did with Asch, or the whole thing is clumsy and it won’t flow.  Sue me, I like things to read like books.

The Agentic State.  This is when people attribute responsibility to another person, usually an authority figure, and as a consequence, do not see themselves as responsible for their own actions.  The transfer of responsibility onto someone else is called an agentic shift.  Milgram suggested that most people in his study on situational variables in obedience had undergone an agentic shift.  They claimed that they had only administered “electric shocks” of a high voltage to the ‘learner’ in the study because they were told to do so by a confederate overseer.  This had the consequence that the ‘teacher’ felt responsibility towards the overseer, but not towards themself.  Even so, if the teacher and the overseer were in different rooms, the voltage of shock that the teacher was willing to give the learner fell considerably, which is interesting as it suggests that if you can’t see the authority, they are no longer legitimate.  Consider this when we talk about the legitimacy of authority.

It should be noted here that this was an ethical issue in Milgram’s study, as the overseer would give prods such as ‘you must continue’ if the ‘teacher’ in the study asked to stop administering “shocks” to the ‘learner’ (a confederate), which takes away their right to withdraw.  You will also have noticed that I’m using words like ‘teacher’ and ‘learner’ in single quotes.  This is because Milgram lied about the purpose of the study to remove demand characteristics – but this is deception, another ethical issue.

It is theorised that people adopt an agentic state to maintain a healthy self-image, based on the idea that taking responsibility for some pretty dreadful actions – like giving someone a 450 volt shock, as in Milgram’s study – is a surefire way to make you hate yourself.  When you’re in an agentic state, there’s no longer a need for you to evaluate your own actions, so you can revoke any claims or thoughts that you are responsible for someone else’s suffering.

When someone enters the Agentic State, they often stay in it, regardless of whether they would usually follow the authority’s orders.  This is generally believed to be a matter of worry over how other people will view the individual, as it is considered impolite and – for want of a better word – flakey – to go back on something you’ve said you’ll do – regardless of the morality of the situation.

Now, we have Legitimacy of Authority.  Agentic State is most likely if the person views an authority as ‘legitimate’.  This is actually quite easy to understand in terms of day-to-day behaviour.  When a classmate yells for everyone in the hall to be quiet, they’re usually just ignored – it’s not their place.  When a teacher steps out of a classroom to yell at everyone in the hall to be quiet, most students listen and obey.

This is an example of a few things that you need in order to have a legitimate authority: the first is for the figure to be based on position, not personality.  The second is that an institution must be present in order for the authority to really be considered ‘legitimate’, which also makes quite a bit of sense – there’s no point in there being a legitimate authority figure when you’re on your own in a room: it’s sort of a given that you have power and authority, in that case.

If a legitimate authority provides a definition for a situation, people who are not the legitimate authority are likely to take that definition as read – as was the case in Milgram’s study.  The learner’s suffering convinces the teacher that they should quit, but prompting from the overseer urges them to continue – and in most cases, they do so, suggesting that a definition provided by a legitimate authority is usually taken, regardless of the teacher’s actual feelings about it.  This is in spite of the fact that it is the teacher, not the legitimate authority, who is performing the action.

It has also been studied in the context of aviation accidents, which I’m sure sounds a little bit strange at first glance, but it actually makes a lot of sense.  See, Tarnow studied a record of serious aviation accidents from 1978 to 1990 where a ‘black box’ was available, and found excessive dependence on the pilot’s definition of the situation from the crew.  In one case, an officer reported that he had noticed that the pilot’s flight behaviour was risky,  but that since the pilot was the pilot, he must have known what he was doing.  This attitude is purported to have caused 19 out of 37 of the accidents reported in the study.

As I mentioned a moment ago, a legitimate authority requires an institution.  I know I sort of explained it, but I’m going to explain it again in a way that’s slightly more science-y.  The institution does not have to be reputable to have an impact.  This is again seen in Milgram’s situational variables on obedience, in which the study was moved from a laboratory at Yale University to a rundown office in downtown Bridgeport, which was supposedly lacking in credentials – yet there were still very high levels of obedience amongst participants in spite of this.  That being said, the levels of obedience were higher still if the overseer was in uniform, suggesting that to some level, reputability impacts the extent to which an authority is seen as legitimate.

These theories have been used to attempt to explain some intense atrocities committed by people who by all reports are nice, good people, under the influence of an authority figure.  Such examples would include those who have committed atrocities at war, under the orders of a commander.  In this way, the legitimacy of authority is a negative agent through which people can justify the harm of others under claims that their actions were authorised.

This being said, Lifton found that – in a study of German doctors in Auschwitz – there was a gradual and, most crucially, irreversible change in the doctors.  Preceding Auschwitz, they were supposedly only concerned for patient welfare, but during and afterwards, they were capable of carrying out vile and unspeakable acts of cruelty.  Staub suggests that agentic state was not responsible for this shift, but a desensitisation to the acts of evil that these people had become used to carrying out.

We spoke about Zimbardo not long ago, and the assertion based on his research from some psychologists is that people do not slip into an agentic state under the influence of a legitimate authority, but are instead simply cruel people committing cruel acts, as the guards in the SPE had no influence from a legitimate authority, instead simply being cruel for the sake of it.

This provides a nifty segue into our next point, which is about the Authoritarian Personality and other dispositional factors influencing obedience.  For anyone new to psychology, we use dispositional to refer to factors innate in the personality.  You might have heard of an animal having a ‘nervous disposition’, and that means that they’re naturally anxious and jumpy.  Your unsolicited fact about the Author is that I have a very nervous disposition indeed.

But, we’re not talking about nervous dispositions.  We’re talking about the Authoritarian Personality.  Adorno used something called the California F-Scale to measure the different facets of the Authoritarian Personality – with ‘F’ standing for Fascist.  The California F-Scale was measured by people’s agreement with statements like ‘rules are to be followed, not changed’, with more agreement meaning a higher score for the Authoritarian Personality.  These people are thought to be rigid thinkers with fixed ideas on the way that things should be.

Think Inspector Javert from Les Miserables – whilst the Authoritarian Personality hadn’t yet been defined when Victor Hugo was writing, it’s arguable that Javert’s Authoritarian Personality was his most fatal and tragic flaw.  If you aren’t into Les Mis, Boromir from The Lord of The Rings is another example.  If you don’t know any of them, I can’t help you.  I have only read two books in my entire life, you see.  (False.)

Milgram examined the participants of his original study under these, defining them as ‘obedient’ or ‘defiant’.  He found that those who were classed as obedient tended to have higher scores on the California F-Scale than those who were classed as defiant.  The differences between the two types of participant were also synonymous with the dispositional factors suggested by the California F-Scale.

In spite of this admission by Milgram, he still felt that the social context, or situational variables – the ones about uniform, location and proximity we covered above, were more important than dispositional variables.  This is a good place to ease Asch into your research, if you’re feeling adventurous.  Or – not even feeling that adventurous, really.  I think that’s just as accurate.

In order to cover for the demand characteristics induced by participants’ suspicion that the shocks they were giving were not really real, Dambrun and Vatiné replicated the study, but told the participants beforehand that they were participating in a virtual simulation.  The results mirrored Milgram’s, with those who had high RWA scores giving higher voltage shocks than those with lower RWA scores.

Children with Authoritarian Personalities tend to have been brought up by parents with an Authoritarian Parenting Style.  This, in turn, means that the child takes this behaviour as the expected norm in social interactions.  A series of learning and imitation (Social Learning Theory, which we’ll learn about later, is the technical term for this) means that  the child adopts these behaviours into their personality.

Some psychologists have quite rightly pointed out that many of Milgram’s participants reported having strong relationships with their parents, whether they had been classed as obedient or defiant.  These psychologists point out that it is therefore something of a stretch to suggest that every single obedient participant had harsh and punitive parents.  This one is common sense, which is always fun to be able to use in exams.  Don’t rely on it, though.  You need to know stuff, too.  I learned the hard way.  (False.)

This also came up in Milgram’s study, as he found that those whom he had classed as ‘obedient’ were more likely to report a poor relationship with their fathers than those classed as ‘defiant’, reporting a more distant relationship and using more negative terms to describe them.  The Obedient Participants tended to also report feeling that the authority figure in the study was admirable, whilst the defiant participants did not.  This led Milgram to suggest that most obedient participants had an Authoritarian aspect to their personalities.

Altemeyer refined the concept of the Authoritarian Personality using a set of concepts he referred to as Right-Wing Authoritarianism.  He claimed that there were three main parameters which predisposed a person to having an Authoritarian Personality: Conventionalism, Authoritarian Aggression, and Authoritarian Submission.  I’m going to go right ahead and use a similar analogy to the one I used in the overview for Social Influence here: “you aren’t doing what they said we should be doing (Conventionalism) like me (Authoritarian Submission), so I’m going to meet you with extreme disapproval and ostracism (Authoritarian Aggression).”

It’s an interesting note that people who define themselves as having more Left-Wing political views are actually less likely to show an Authoritarian Personality, according to Begue, who carried out a game-show style study and asked participants to fill out a ‘World Values Questionnaire’.  The disclaimer here is of course that people who have Right-Wing political views are not necessarily Authoritarian, and vice versa for people with Left-Wing political views.

Altemeyer tested this by replicating Milgram’s study – but with the participant shocking himself.  He found that participants with high RWA scores were more likely to give themselves stronger shocks.  However, he found that when participants were instructed to press a red button saying ‘Do Not Press This Button Unless Instructed To Do So’ as a punishment for not trying, most did it without question, regardless of RWA scores.

We’re done.  Honestly?  Unprofessional as it is, I’m celebrating.  This took a solid two hours to write, which takes up a lot of revision time.  Step it up, AQA Psychology.  Step it up, me.


Social Influence: Conformity to Social Roles

Two posts in a day – who would have guessed?  The answer is me, because I planned to do this.

So, now we’re talking about Conformity to Social Roles, and unlike the last post, we’re starting with the study, because this whole topic is explained through the study.  It’s a good one though – honestly, the word ‘wild’ comes to mind.

The key study is called the Stanford Prison Experiment.  It was conducted by a guy called Zimbardo, and like I said – it’s absolutely wild.

Essentially, Zimbardo took 24 people, and then split them into two groups – guards and prisoners.  He stuck them in a basement, which replicated a prison, and then sat back to see what would happen.  Spoiler Alert: it did not end well.

There’s an ethical issue here – I’m sure you can vaguely spot what it is, but I’m not going to go into detail on it just yet.  Just keep it in the back of your mind.  If I was teaching a class, I’d ask you to stick your hand in the air when you’d identified it.

The first thing Zimbardo did was to psychologically and physically screen his participants, which is probably the first sign that the experiment was going to be quite something.  He picked 24, who he deemed to be the most stable.  All were male students, by the way, which is good fun to talk about on an ‘is this generalisable to the population as a whole?’ level (the answer is no).  He split them into even groups of 12 – prisoners and guards, with himself as the prison superintendent.

This is where we have a criticism of the study, in that when Banuazizi and Movahedi described this to students who had never heard of the study, they guessed pretty quickly what the study was about.  This suggests the presence of strong demand characteristics, which we’ll get onto later.

The prisoners were unexpectedly arrested at home and taken to the prison, where they were assigned ID numbers and given prison uniforms.  They were given certain privileges, including three meals and three supervised toilet trips per day, along with two visits in a week.

Remember that ethical issue.

The guards were given reflective glasses, so that they could not be identified or make eye contact, alongside uniforms and clubs.  This supposedly emphasises the impact of the role – a bit like method acting.

And – here’s where we’ll be pulling in the ethical issue.  The guards grew more and more abusive towards the prisoners.  They made them perform degrading activities like cleaning the toilets with their bare hands in the middle of the night.  Some of the guards were so enthusiastic that they volunteered to do extra hours without any extra pay, which – I’m sure you get the point – it’s pretty freaky.

Zimbardo suggests that this Conformity to Social Roles was responsible for the types of cruelty which occurred in an Iraqi prison called Abu Ghraib in around 2003, in which US soldiers showed such unspeakable cruelty to the Iraqi prisoners that the prison has now become notorious for its torture and abuse of its prisoners.

We’ll touch on the ethical issue in just a moment, but there’s one more thing I want to go through first.  This is namely that guard behaviour varied from guard-to-guard, with some guards actually being fairly kind to the prisoners, whilst others were obviously very cruel and tyrannical.  The suggestion here, from Haslam and Reicher, which contests Zimbardo’s belief that Conformity to Social Roles is an automatic consequence of a situation, is that the guards made a conscious decision on how to behave.

A decision which had a fairly dramatic effect on the prisoners in the study.  The prisoners at times seemed to forget that they were not real prisoners, and the five who were released early did not ask for their right to withdraw, but for ‘parole’.  The prisoners showed extreme distress, such as crying, from as early as two days into the study.  Although the study was planned to last for 14 days, it was terminated after only six due to the extreme cruelty of the guards.

Whilst Zimbardo’s study was approved by the Stanford Ethics Committee, and was therefore not technically considered unethical, this has not altered the prevailing view of the general public, that the cruelty meted out to the prisoners was an unacceptable breach of their human rights.  Zimbardo himself has admitted that he should have terminated the study much sooner, once he’d observed signs of distress in the prisoners.  That being said, he has made every effort to compensate for this by debriefing the participants regularly and offering them free counselling for any lasting psychological distress.

Zimbardo believed that his study showed that people descend into Social Roles because of the ideas about them that are generally prescribed by authority without the need for any specific orders.  He claims that the guards’ brutality was a natural consequence of being prescribed the role of guard.

This assertion has been met with disagreement from Reicher and Haslam, discussed earlier.  They do not believe that the assignment of social roles has the natural consequence of making an individual’s behaviour mindless and tyrannical, and they performed their own study to demonstrate this.

Reicher and Haslam’s study, or the BBC Prison Experiment, was a replication of the Stanford Prison Experiment.  The ratio of guard to prisoner was 1:2, with one guard being chosen randomly from a group of three participants who had been grouped together based on similarities in their personalities.

Reicher and Haslam were careful to take measures to avoid the level of distress evident in the SPE.

The study ran for the full intended eight days.  The prisoners worked as a group to challenge the guards’ authority and create more egalitarian social standards.  Equally, the guards did not identify with the role of  ‘guard’ creating a collapse in the guard-prisoner dynamic.

As you can see, Reicher and Haslam produced vastly different results to Zimbardo.  This could be caused by a number of things, but it’s fair to suggest that Conformity to Social Roles is not always automatic, as Zimbardo asserts.  That being said, I don’t believe it’s always chosen, as Reicher and Haslam assert, as the circumstances in either study were not the same.

Next: Obedience.  Also, sorry, Obedience is kind of long.

Social Influence: Types of Conformity and Explanations for Conformity

With any luck, this should be shorter than the last few.  I mean – it sort of needs to be, because I need to get through everything by next Thursday.

Welcome to Social Influence: Under the Microscope.  This part is where we go into detail on things: I’ll give you the figures and we’ll evaluate things, and it should enhance your understanding of the topic a great deal.

This might seem a little bit like five separate mini-topics.  I’m aware of this, and sorry about that.  If this wasn’t my revision, I guarantee I would make this more palatable reading for you.

Conformity Type Number One: Compliance.  Compliance is when an individual publicly goes along with the group point of view whilst privately disagreeing.  This occurs because humans have a need to avoid disapproval and gain acceptance from the people around them.

Compliance was seen in Asch’s study on conformity, wherein 33% of participants expressed public agreement on an incorrect answer, yet when asked later, admitted that they had maintained their original views in private.  That being said, there were some participants who never conformed, which suggests that there is an extent to which dispositional factors influence whether a person complies to the majority stance.

Asch points out that if 33% of participants showed compliance, 67% of participants did not.  He asserts that this majority actually suggests that his study should not be used as evidence that conformity is natural, but that the prevailing result is that people are more likely to stick with their pre-existing views.  It should perhaps be noted that there are cultural differences here, as people in collectivist cultures show much higher levels of conformity than people in individualist cultures due to a difference in standards.

Conformity Type Number Two: Internalisation: Internalisation is when an individual publicly and privately agrees with the group point of view.  An introspective examination of the majority point of view leads to an acceptance of their beliefs as fact.

In theory, these are quite simple, but in reality, it can be quite difficult to tell them apart.  This is because people do not have static points of view on things.  When a person accepts something in public but disagrees in private, we assume that compliance is in play, however it is equally possible that the individual simply examined information which they had privately accepted in public during the lapse of time between being in public and being in private, and decided to reject it.  In this case, internalisation occurs, yet has the characteristics of compliance.

Conformity Type Number Three: Identification.  Identification is when an individual imitates the group’s behaviour because they want to be associated with that group of people.  For example, smoking because you think it’s cool.  Try not to smoke, kids, and if you do, check the tar and nicotine contents first.  Just covering my bases.

Now onto the types of Social Influence,

Social Influence Type One: Normative Social Influence.  Normative Social Influence is when an individual conforms to group behaviours because of a fear of disapproval and a need to be accepted.  The key factor in Normative Social Influence is a belief – which may or may not be true – that you’re under surveillance.  For example, your behaviour might change for this reason at work or school.

Interestingly, Asch found that when a participant was given the support of a confederate, breaking the unanimity of the majority, the participant’s conformity level dropped to 5%, suggesting that just one element of support was enough to dissipate the participant’s anxiety surrounding disapproval.

It should be noted here that Asch’s research took place in the 1950s, when McCarthyism was prevalent.  As such, people were very afraid to go against the majority.  Further, more recent research, has found that conformity under these circumstances is more likely when the costs of not conforming are high.  This was shown in Perrin and Spencer’s 1980s study, in which amongst the general population, conformity was much lower, but juveniles under probation showed the same levels of conformity to their probation officers as the participants in Asch’s study.

Research support has been lent to Normative Social Influence, especially by a pair of researchers called Linkenbach and Perkins.  Linkenbach and Perkins displayed information to adolescents which claimed that most adolescents did not smoke, which subsequently reduced the proportion of adolescents who reported smoking.  This research was reflected a second time by a researcher called Schultz, who found that when hotel guests were told that 75% of guests reused their towels, their towel use reduced by 25%.

However, in spite of the apparent power of Normative Social Influence, it can be difficult to detect.  This is because people don’t necessarily recognise the power other people have over their behaviour.  Nolan, for example, asked people about what they believed had an influence on their behaviour, and found that most people believed that their neighbours had the least influence on their behaviour, in spite of research data showing that neighbours had the most influence on their behaviour.

Social Influence Type Two: Informational Social Influence.  Informational Social Influence is when an individual examines what the majority has said and accepts it as the truth.  This happens because people have an intrinsic need to feel that their opinions are correct and valid.  This is most likely where the person performing the validation is considered to be an expert, or the facts are especially ambiguous.

Asch found that this was especially effected by the presence of a larger group size, which Fairey and Campbell found was dependent on the subjectivity of the task; a larger group size gives more sway under a subjective question.  However, there isn’t a great deal of research into group size, with only Asch’s study taking the number of the majority to nine, which makes it difficult to tell whether a large majority has a great effect on conformity.

Furthermore, a more difficult task produced higher levels of conformity.  There is an extent to which an individual’s confidence, or self-efficacy, stops this from occurring, suggesting that dispositional factors are important in determining whether Informational Social Influence will occur.

Wittenbrink and Henley found that this was the case – and not necessarily under the best of circumstances.  They found that when individuals were exposed to negative beliefs about African American people, they would then take on these same beliefs.  The same also occurs during public presidential debates – if an individual sees the general public’s responses to a candidate, they are likely to adjust their votes accordingly.   Interestingly, in spite of Trump’s claims that he has ‘nothing but respect for women’ being met with laughter, he’s still the President of the United States of America.  Don’t write that in your exam, but give it some consideration.

Informational Social Influence is moderated by the type of task.  If a task is subjective or difficult, Informational Social Influence is more likely to occur.  This is because for some tasks, there is a clear right and a clear wrong answer.  For example, knowing that 2+2=4 is an objective task which does not require influence to work out, but knowing whether Arithmetic is difficult is more subjective, and in spite of the fact that it’s very personal to an individual’s skill, can be effected by other people’s opinions on the matter.

Whilst the findings are dotted above, I’m going to discuss here what Asch did, because you need to know it.  Asch took 123 male US undergraduates.  The participant would be placed into a room with a group of confederates.  They would be shown a line and asked which of three lines was the same length, and always answered second-to-last.  The confederates always gave the wrong answer, except for in one control condition, in which they gave the right answer.

There have been some concerns about whether the confederates were convincing or not, however a study by Mori and Arai which replicated Asch removed the aspect of acting by giving each participant a pair of glasses which distorted their view of the line-lengths, removing demand characteristics.  They achieved similar results to Asch.

And that’s that done!  Onto Conformity to Social Roles next – and this one really is genuinely shorter!