Firstly, remind yourself of the key features of Asch’s study. You can watch a reconstruction of the original 1951 study here. You can also listen to Peter Smith talking about his work with Rod Bond on conformity across cultures here. If you want to hear more about the ethics of Asch’s study, you can listen to one of Asch’s research assistants, Henry Gleitman, talking about how he sees the ethics of Asch’s procedures. Click on this link. These audio clips all come from a BBC Radio 4 programme about Asch which you can listen to here.
The London riots took place in August 2011. They started in response to the shooting of Mark Duggan by the police and quickly escalated. This is how Al-Jazeera TV and the Daily Telegraph reported the events which led up to the riots. Two social psychologists, Clifford Stott and Stephen Reicher, have made a study of these riots. You can listen to Stephen Reicher discuss the riots on BBC Radio 4’s All In The Mind by clicking here. If you prefer, you can follow the link to the programme website. An article by Reicher and Stott appears here. You can use a search engine to find out more about their research.
The main issue is how informational influence and normative social influence as explanations of conformity can be applied to understanding behaviour in crowds. Informational social influence is based on the idea that people change their behaviours or beliefs in response to group pressure because of wanting to be right. In many social situations, people may be unsure of how to behave or unclear as to what they think or feel about an issue. In this case, they may conform with others and copy their actions because they are unsure of what to do or say. What is the evidence that people took part in the riots because of being unsure of how to behave or unclear as to what they thought or felt about an issue?
Normative social influence is based on the need to be accepted by and belong to a group. This may be because belonging to the group is rewarding and the group has the power to punish or even exclude those who do not fit in. What is the evidence that people took part in the riot because of the need to be accepted by and belong to a group? What is the evidence that they feared being excluded from that group?
There are two further questions. In our lesson, we have looked at the question of how easily normative social influence and informational influence can be separated. Are they really one big process or two separate processes? More generally, we might ask about the role of social psychology in offering explanations of the behaviour of crowds in riots. Does providing an explanation offer an excuse for criminal behaviour?
Please post a comment and explain your point of view.