ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

This research investigates whether conformity can be elicited or suppressed by nonconscious priming. In Experiment 1, participants were primed for either conformity or nonconformity using a scrambled sentences task and later placed into a conformity situation. As predicted, participants primed with conformity expressed views that were more similar to those of experimental confederates than did participants primed with nonconformity. To investigate whether the influence of the primes was symmetric, Experiment 2 included a neutral prime condition. Participants primed with conformity again tended to conform more than those in the other two groups, but the nonconformity primes did not induce participants to rebel against the group norm. Discussion focuses on the asymmetry in the effectiveness of the conformity and nonconformity primes.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Just Going Along: Nonconscious Priming
and Conformity to Social Pressure
Nicholas Epley and Thomas Gilovich
Cornell University
Received September 4, 1998; revised January 11, 1999; accepted January 19, 1999
This research investigates whether conformity can be elicited or suppressed by noncon-
scious priming. In Experiment 1, participants were primed for either conformity or
nonconformity using a scrambled sentences task and later placed into a conformity
situation. As predicted, participants primed with conformity expressed views that were
more similar to those of experimental confederates than did participants primed with
nonconformity. To investigate whether the influence of the primes was symmetric,
Experiment 2 included a neutral prime condition. Participants primed with conformity
again tended to conform more than those in the other two groups, but the nonconformity
primes did not induce participants to rebel against the group norm. Discussion focuses on
the asymmetry in the effectiveness of the conformity and nonconformity primes. r1999
Academic Press
I just went. My mind just went. And I wasn’t the only one that did it.A lot of other people did it. I just
killed . .. a lot of people were doing it, so I just followed suit. I just lost all sense of direction, of
purpose. I just started killing any kinda way I could kill. It just came. I didn’t know I had it in me.
—American soldier involved in the My Lai massacre (Bilton & Sim, 1971, p. 7)
Conformity pressure often produces a strong feeling of internal conflict. On one
hand, a person may feel that the opinions, attitudes, or behaviors of others are
incorrect or, even worse, immoral. On the other hand, nobody wants to be
ostracized by their friends or peers. Deciding what to do often requires consider-
able conscious deliberation, as one sizes up the costs of caving in versus the pain
This research was supported by Research Grant SBR9319558 from the National Science Founda-
tion. We are grateful to David Dunning, Dennis Reagan, and Michael Spivey for commenting on an
earlier draft of the manuscript and to Trey Billings, Kirsten Enterlin, Julie Gallagher, Andy Minor,
David Rosen, and Tyler Story for their assistance with the research. Portions of this research were
presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Society, 1997, Washington, DC.
Address correspondence and reprint requests to Nicholas Epley or Thomas Gilovich, Department of
Psychology, Cornell University, Uris Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853-7601. E-mail: ne12@cornell.edu,
tdg1@cornell.edu.
Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 35, 578–589 (1999)
Article ID jesp.1999.1390, available online at http://www.idealibrary.com on
578
0022-1031/99 $30.00
Copyright r1999 by Academic Press
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.
jesp 1390
@xyserv2/disk3/CLS_jrnl/GRP_jesp/JOB_jesp35-6/DIV_323a01 rich
No. of Pages—12 First page no.—578 Last page no.—589
of eating lunch alone for weeks on end. Variations in numerous aspects of the
situation lead to variations in the conscious perception of these costs, which, in
turn, may influence behavior.
There are times, however, when behavior in conformity situations seems less
deliberate and less controlled. People sometimes find themselves going along
with the group reflexively—without much thought and without knowing why.The
first author, for example, recently found himself running energetically across
Manger Square in Bethlehem for the simple reason that everyone else in the
square was also running (as it turned out, because of a surprise visit by Yasser
Arafat). Similarly, the soldier involved in the My Lai massacre recalls his
seemingly automatic reaction to the behavior of his fellow soldiers. He did not
stop to consider his behavior, he just ‘‘followed suit.’’
The present research seeks to investigate a potentially important instigator of
this type of ‘‘mindless’ or ‘‘automatic’ conformity. Specifically, we investigate
whether priming the construct of conformity or nonconformity can lead people to
be more inclined to follow or resist the influence of others.
Automaticity in Social Cognition and Behavior
Psychologists have known for some time that many cognitive processes are
beyond conscious awareness or voluntary control (see Greenwald & Banaji, 1995,
for a review). Attitudes, for example, may be activated by the mere presence of an
attitude object (Bargh, Chaiken, Govender, & Pratto, 1992; Fazio, Sanbonmatsu,
Powell, & Kardes, 1986), and comparisons arise automatically when one is in the
presence of another person (Gilbert, Giesler, & Morris, 1995). Judgments about
ourselves and others are likewise open to influences beyond conscious control,
including the influence of information presented outside of awareness (Greenwald
& Banaji, 1995).
More recently, researchers have documented such effects not just on judgment,
but also on social behavior. In perhaps the most dramatic demonstration of this
effect, college students primed with words associated with the elderly walked
more slowly after leaving an experimental setting (Bargh, Chen, & Burrows,
1996). In another study by the same authors, white participants subliminally
presented with faces of AfricanAmericans expressed more hostility in response to
a computer failure than did those presented with white faces. Also, participants
who are exposed to words associated with hostility tend to behave in a more
hostile fashion (Carver, Ganellen, Froming, & Chambers, 1983; Herr, 1986). This
research suggests that social behavior can be activated automatically, seemingly
with no conscious thought or mediation.
We sought to expand on these findings by examining whether conformity—a
behavior of long-standing interest to social psychologists that is typically charac-
terized by conscious deliberation—can be influenced by analogous priming
manipulations. Can people be led to conform by priming them with words related
to conformity? Alternatively, can people be induced to rebel or deviate from a
579
NONCONSCIOUS CONFORMITY
jesp 1390
@xyserv2/disk3/CLS_jrnl/GRP_jesp/JOB_jesp35-6/DIV_323a01 rich
group consensus by priming them with words related to nonconformity? We
conducted two studies to find out.
EXPERIMENT 1
Methods
Participants. Thirty-four Cornell University undergraduates volunteered to
participate for extra credit in their psychology courses.1
Materials. Participants were primed for conformity or nonconformity using a
scrambled sentences task presented in the guise of a psycholinguistics experiment
(Bargh et al., 1996; Srull & Wyer, 1979). Participants were presented with strings
of five scrambled words and asked to create a grammatically correct sentence
using four of the words in each string. For instance, the scrambled string ‘‘is kind
angry she very’’could be unscrambled to make ‘‘she is very kind’’or ‘‘she is very
angry.’
Two different versions of the task, each containing 30 strings of scrambled
words, were created to prime participants either for conformity or nonconformity.
In 20 of these strings, one word was semantically related to either conformity or
nonconformity, depending on condition. To generate these priming words, 45
undergraduates in a psychology course at Cornell were asked to write down as
many words as they could think of that were related to conformity and nonconfor-
mity. Words mentioned by at least 3 participants were included in the task. Only
19 nonconformity words fit this criterion, and thus one word (oppose) was
repeated. To maintain balance across the two conditions, only the 19 most
frequently mentioned conformity words were used as well, with one of the words
(respect) being repeated. The resulting words did not vary across conditions in
either length, t(36) 1.23, p.20, or frequency of usage (Carroll, Davies, &
Richman, 1971), t1.
In the conformity version, the critical priming stimuli were adhere, agree,
comply, conform, copy, customary, emulate, follow, habitual, imitate, maintain,
mimic, obey, oblige, respect (presented twice), simulate, supportive, uniform, and
uphold. In the nonconformity version, the critical priming stimuli were challenge,
confront, counter, defy, deviate, differ, different, disagree, disobey, disrespect,
ignore, individual, independent, oppose (presented twice), opposite, rebel, refute,
reject, and unique. The four filler words in each of the 20 critical strings were
unrelated to either conformity or nonconformity, as were all the words in the 10
neutral strings. The sentences were presented in a random order that was the same
for both conditions. The priming task was administered on a Macintosh LCII
computer using a program created with Hypercard.
Procedure. Each session included three confederates who were unaware of the
participant’s condition.All members of the ostensible group of four were told that
1In both Experiments 1 and 2, approximately 65% of participants were women. However, gender
had no effect on any of the dependent measures in either experiment and therefore is not discussed
further.
580 EPLEY AND GILOVICH
jesp 1390
@xyserv2/disk3/CLS_jrnl/GRP_jesp/JOB_jesp35-6/DIV_323a01 rich
the experiment concerned ‘‘psycholinguistic decision-making processes’ and
would involve a short computer task. The experimenter told participants that the
session was actually a pilot test for an experiment to be run later in the semester.
Consequently, he was interested in receiving feedback regarding the experiment
and would be asking them a few short questions after they had finished.
They were then led to individual cubicles each equipped with a computer. From
just outside the cubicles, the experimenter gave everyone some general instruc-
tions regarding the computer program and told them to assemble in the hallway
when they were finished. The task required approximately 10 min to complete.
After several minutes, two of the confederates quietly left their cubicles and
waited in the hallway. The remaining confederate was instructed to wait in the
cubicle until the participant had finished and then to emerge 10 s later. Once all
four were in the hallway, the experimenter led everyone to another room
containing a large table and an overhead projector. The confederates always
entered first and sat in previously assigned chairs, thereby assuring that the
participant invariably sat in the same location. After everyone was seated, the
experimenter reiterated that this was only a pilot test and that he would like some
feedback about the experiment.
The experimenter then asked two questions: ‘‘How interesting was this experi-
ment?’’ and ‘‘Overall, how much did you enjoy this experiment?’2After each
question, two confederates immediately gave extremely positive verbal feedback
and then waited a moment to allow the participant time to respond, if he/she
desired. After a response or brief moment of silence, the experimenter told the
group that, as a social scientist, he was leery of open-ended responses and would
like a more concrete measure of their sentiments. A written version of each
question and a scale ranging from 1 (not at all) to 11 (extremely) was then
projected onto the wall. The experimenter requested that each person think about
his/her response to the question and then gestured around the room saying,
‘‘Maybe we could quickly go around the room and get your responses.’ The
experimenter’s gesture made it clear that the confederates should respond first and
the participant last. All confederates provided extremely positive responses
(M9.67 across both questions). Given the nature of the sentence construction
task being evaluated, such responses were likely to be significantly at variance
with the participant’s own attitudes.3After the participant provided his or her
ratings, the confederates were dismissed and the participant was debriefed.
2Participants were also asked ‘‘How difficult was this experiment?’’ However, responses to this
question were uncorrelated with the other two items in both studies (all p’s .2) and were thus
excluded from all analyses. In Experiment 1, internal reliability (Cronbach’s ) for the composite scale
averaging across the dependent measures rose from .68 to .81 when this item was removed. In
Experiment 2, internal reliability rose from .53 to .72. Consequently, the main conformity analyses in
both Experiment 1 and Experiment 2 are based on the two items cited in the text.
3Indeed, a separate group of control participants in Experiment 2 who were neither primed nor
exposed to any conformity pressure assigned the task a mean rating of 6.39 on the two scales.
581NONCONSCIOUS CONFORMITY
jesp 1390
@xyserv2/disk3/CLS_jrnl/GRP_jesp/JOB_jesp35-6/DIV_323a01 rich
Results and Discussion
To examine whether participants were aware of the priming manipulation, we
asked them during debriefing to indicate whether, and how, the sentence construc-
tion task might have been related to the later feedback session. Nearly all
participants simply repeated the cover story in response to this probe, and none
indicated correctly how the two parts of the experiment were related. In addition,
participants were asked if they could remember any recurring themes among the
words used in the sentence construction task. Once again, no participant voiced
any awareness of the theme of conformity or nonconformity.
To create an overall conformity index, we averaged each participant’s ratings
on the two 11-point scales (␣⫽.81). As predicted, participants primed with
conformity rated the task more favorably (M8.56) than did those primed with
nonconformity (M7.41), separate variance t(32) 2.08, p.05. Stated
differently, the ratings made by participants in the conformity condition were
more similar to those voiced by the confederates (mean discrepancy 1.11) than
were those made by participants in the nonconformity condition (mean discrep-
ancy 2.26).
It is worth noting that although participants in the nonconformity condition
conformed less than their counterparts in the conformity condition, their mean
responses were nonetheless rather high (M7.41). One would be hard pressed to
argue that participants in the nonconformity condition were particularly rebel-
lious. One ancillary finding that may help to explain these seemingly high
conformity scores is that the variance in the nonconformity group was signifi-
cantly larger than that in the conformity group (Levene’sTest for Homogeneity of
Variances 6.17, p.05). Some of this difference doubtless results from the
ratings in the conformity group being closer to the upper limit of the scale and
therefore having less room for variability.This is unlikely to be the sole reason for
the difference, however, as the average was still rather far from the absolute
ceiling (8.56, with an upper limit of 11).
Another possible reason for this difference is that it may be difficult to prime
nonconformity without running the risk of simultaneously priming conformity.
Terms related to nonconformity are often—like nonconformity itself—coded
with reference to conformity, whereas the converse is not true for conformity. The
New Merriam–Webster Dictionary indicates that to ‘‘defy,’’ for example, is
defined as ‘‘to refuse boldly to obey or to yield to’ (Mish et al., 1989), and, of
course, ‘‘disagree’and ‘‘disobey’’ explicitly denote the absence of agreement and
obedience, respectively. The common terms used to denote conformity, in
contrast, make no reference to the counter condition of nonconformity. To
‘‘obey,’’ for example, is defined simply as ‘‘to follow the commands or guidance
of: behave obediently’’(Mish et al., 1989). Nonconformity is thus linguistically
‘‘marked’ and conformity ‘‘unmarked,’’ and, like marked forms generally, it is
processed along with some reference to its unmarked counterpart (Clark & Clark,
1977). This suggests that the conformity primes may have been more successful—
more pure—than the nonconformity primes, which may have inadvertently also
582 EPLEY AND GILOVICH
jesp 1390
@xyserv2/disk3/CLS_jrnl/GRP_jesp/JOB_jesp35-6/DIV_323a01 rich
primed conformity.This would explain both ancillary features of our data: (1) that
the ratings made by participants in the nonconformity condition, although
significantly lower than those in the conformity condition, were still rather high in
absolute terms and (2) that the variability of the ratings in the nonconformity
condition was so large.
EXPERIMENT 2
We conducted a second experiment to pursue this issue further. In particular, we
included a neutral priming condition to examine whether the words used to prime
nonconformity induce people to dissent as much as the words used to prime
conformity lead them to conform. If the nonconformity primes inadvertently
activate the construct of conformity for at least some (but not all) participants, the
mean responses of participants in the neutral and nonconformity groups should be
roughly comparable, with some participants in the nonconformity group rebelling
and others conforming. This should also generate greater variability in the
responses of participants in the nonconformity group compared to those in the
other two conditions. On the other hand, if the nonconformity primes successfully
activate pure nonconformity, then the responses of participants in the nonconfor-
mity condition should deviate from those of the confederates more than those of
respondents in the control group.
Experiment 2 was also designed to investigate several alternative interpreta-
tions of the findings from the first experiment. First, the experimenter in
Experiment 1 was aware of each participant’s condition. We doubt, however, that
experimenter demand produced the observed effects because of the tightly
scripted interaction between the experimenter and participants and the more
salient demand—constant across conditions—emanating from the confederates
who were unaware of the condition. Nevertheless, to remove any doubt about this
issue we devised a procedure for Experiment 2 that would keep the experimenter
unaware of the participant’s condition.
Second, although no one indicated any awareness of the priming manipulation
during debriefing, this does not guarantee a complete lack of awareness. Some
participants may have been consciously aware of the earlier primes when the
dependent measures were collected, but any such awareness may have faded by
the time of debriefing. To provide a more rigorous test of awareness in Experi-
ment 2, a control condition was run in which participants were given the sentence
completion task and then, without the time-consuming and distracting procedure
of listening to the responses of the confederates, were asked whether they had
detected any recurring themes in the sentence completion materials.
Finally, control participants were asked to rate the experiment on the two
critical conformity measures, in the absence of conformity pressure. This served
to investigate the potential artifact that exposure to the conformity words may
have made the experiment more interesting and enjoyable.
583
NONCONSCIOUS CONFORMITY
jesp 1390
@xyserv2/disk3/CLS_jrnl/GRP_jesp/JOB_jesp35-6/DIV_323a01 rich
Methods
Participants. The participants were 120 Cornell undergraduates who volun-
teered in exchange for extra credit in their psychology courses. Sixty participants
were run in one of three experimental conditions (conformity, nonconformity,
neutral), and 60 were run in the three corresponding control conditions.
Materials. All materials were the same as those in Experiment 1, with the
addition of the neutral priming condition. In this condition, the critical priming
words used in the conformity and nonconformity conditions were replaced by the
following: allergic, alternate, chase, excuse, imprint, meet, mobile, naive, ner-
vous, notion, orient, perplex, review, simplify, sociable, stretch, thirsty, transport,
vault, and wonder. These words did not differ from their counterparts in the other
two conditions in either length, both p’s .15, or frequency (Carroll, Davies, &
Richman, 1971), both p’s .35.
Procedure. The procedure was identical to Experiment 1 for the three experi-
mental conditions. In the control condition, participants were run in groups of one
to five and no confederates were used. After completing the computer task,
control participants were told that the experimenter would like to receive
feedback about the experiment and were handed a questionnaire containing the
two critical attitude questions.
A third item was included to measure awareness: ‘‘Many of the words included
in the sentences presented earlier on the computer were related to one another.
Can you think of any general themes or topics that most of the words in the
sentences were related to?’’After completing the questionnaire, the participants
were debriefed and dismissed.
Results and Discussion
There were three primary questions of interest in this experiment. First, what
was the direction of influence in the nonconformity condition? Were these
participants induced to rebel against the group or did the nonconformity primes
also inadvertently prime conformity? This was assessed by comparing the
behavior of participants in the nonconformity and neutral groups. Second, can the
predicted behavioral effects also be obtained in the absence of conformity
pressure? This was assessed by examining the responses of the control partici-
pants, who completed the attitude measures without conformity pressure. Finally,
were participants aware of the priming manipulations? This was likewise assessed
by examining the responses of the control participants, who were asked immedi-
ately afterward whether they had detected any recurring themes in the sentence
completion task.
Conformity. The primary dependent measure was each participant’s average
response on the two 11-point scales. These data are presented in Fig. 1, which
shows that participants in the conformity condition gave higher ratings (M8.73),
which therefore conformed more closely to those of the confederates than did
participants in either the nonconformity (M8.03) or neutral (M7.77) condi-
tions. The critical contrast between the conformity condition and the other two
584 EPLEY AND GILOVICH
jesp 1390
@xyserv2/disk3/CLS_jrnl/GRP_jesp/JOB_jesp35-6/DIV_323a01 rich
conditions was significant, separate variance t(57) 2.80, p.01. Examined
more closely, the responses of participants in the conformity group were signifi-
cantly higher than those of participants in the control group, separate variance
t(57) 3.03, p.005, and marginally significantly higher than those of
participants in the nonconformity group, separate variance t(57) 1.68, p.10.
The nonconformity and neutral conditions did not differ significantly from each
other, t1. This is consistent with the claim that words used to prime
nonconformity can also inadvertently prime conformity. This claim is further
supported by the finding that the variance of participants’ responses in the
nonconformity group (2.85) exceeded by a considerable margin the variance of
participants’ responses in the conformity group (0.73), Levene’s Test for Homoge-
neity of Variance 3.84, p.057. The variance of participants’responses in the
neutral group (1.25) was between that of the other two groups but closer to the
conformity condition.
Behavior in the absence of pressure. Participants in the control conditions
answered the same two attitude questions as those in the experimental groups. As
expected, a one-way ANOVA on their responses revealed no significant differ-
ences among the three priming conditions, F1, indicating no priming effects in
the absence of conformity pressure (see Fig. 1). In addition, the variance in
participants’ responses in the conformity and nonconformity control groups were
almost identical (Levene’s Test for Homogeneity of Variance .36, p.5).
Tests for awareness. We checked for awareness among the experimental
participants during debriefing by asking them two questions. First, we asked
participants whether, and how, the sentence construction task may have been
related to the later feedback session. Once again, most participants simply relayed
the cover story, and none indicated any awareness of the true relationship.
Second, we asked participants whether they could remember any general themes
FIG. 1. Mean task ratings in experimental and control conditions.
585NONCONSCIOUS CONFORMITY
jesp 1390
@xyserv2/disk3/CLS_jrnl/GRP_jesp/JOB_jesp35-6/DIV_323a01 rich
contained in the priming task. None mentioned anything related to either
conformity or nonconformity. Thus, by the end of the experiment at least, it is
clear that experimental participants were unaware of the content of the primes to
which they had been exposed.
Results were slightly different for the control participants, who were asked to
write down any themes they had discerned among the stimulus words immedi-
ately after they had been exposed to them. In the conformity condition, one person
wrote ‘‘conformity,’’ a second wrote ‘‘obedience,’’ and a third wrote ‘‘obeying
people.’’ In the nonconformity condition, one person wrote ‘‘obedience/
rebellion’’and a second wrote ‘‘rebellion.’’ None of the other themes mentioned
were even remotely related to conformity or nonconformity. Thus, among the
control participants, there was some awareness of the priming stimuli, but it was
not pervasive (5 of 40 participants).
Does the awareness evidenced by these five participants call into question the
results observed in the experimental conditions? We think not. First, it stands to
reason that the ability to retrieve a theme running through the words contained in
the scrambled sentences task would be greatest right after the task is completed
and then fade with time. By the time participants in the experimental conditions
left their cubicles, assembled in a common room, and listened to the experiment-
er’s request for feedback, the relevant memory traces may have been inaccessible.
This would explain why none of the experimental participants in either study
reported a theme even remotely connected to conformity or nonconformity.
Indeed, it is for this reason, presumably, that past research using the scrambled
sentences paradigm has only assessed awareness of the priming stimuli among
experimental participants and invariably found none (Bargh et al., 1996; Char-
trand & Bargh, 1997; Srull & Wyer, 1979). More important, if participants were
aware of the priming stimuli and behaved in accordance with some implicit
‘‘demand,’ we would not have obtained the results we did. In particular,
participants who were aware of being exposed to nonconformity primes and who
wished to please the experimenter would have conformed less than those in the
neutral condition. We found, in contrast, that they conformed a bit more.
GENERAL DISCUSSION
This research investigated whether conformity can be influenced by manipula-
tions that are outside of conscious awareness. In both Experiments 1 and 2,
participants primed with conformity words tended to conform more in a later
situation than those primed with nonconformity words. In Experiment 2, partici-
pants primed with conformity words also conformed more than those primed with
neutral words. In addition, a series of probes revealed that experimental partici-
pants were not consciously aware of the priming manipulation.
We also found that participants primed with nonconformity were not systemati-
cally induced to rebel against the group norm. In Experiment 2, although those
primed with nonconformity again conformed less than those primed with confor-
mity, they did not conform less than participants exposed to neutral primes.
586 EPLEY AND GILOVICH
jesp 1390
@xyserv2/disk3/CLS_jrnl/GRP_jesp/JOB_jesp35-6/DIV_323a01 rich
Instead, priming for nonconformity appeared, if anything, to produce slightly
more conformity behavior. It thus appears easier to induce people to mindlessly
‘‘go along’with group pressure than to ‘‘go against.’
Priming Conformity versus Nonconformity
There are several potential explanations for this asymmetry, and thus several
explanations for the results obtained in the nonconformity conditions of the two
experiments. First, it is typically easier for people to conform than to rebel. This
may have been particularly true in the present experiments in which deviating
from the example set by the confederates involved telling the experimenter to his
face that his experimental tasks were dull. Thus, our procedure may have simply
set a much higher ‘‘hurdle’for expressing the impulse to rebel than the impulse to
conform. Second, because our confederates modeled conformity and not dissent,
participants in the conformity conditions may have been doubly primed—by the
words presented in the scrambled sentences task and by the confederates’
behavior. There is recent evidence that one person’s behavior can lead to
automatic mimicry by another (Chartrand & Bargh, 1999). Such an effect here
would have accentuated the effectiveness of the conformity primes and sup-
pressed the effectiveness of the nonconformity primes.
A third explanation is the one we referred to earlier: Priming nonconformity
may simultaneously prime conformity and thus lead to weak or variable effects.
As the very name implies, nonconformity tends to be understood in contrast
to—and hence in reference to—conformity. Our conformity manipulation may
thus have been relatively pure and effective, and our nonconformity manipulation
relatively impure and ineffective.
The present findings cannot definitively decide between these three interpreta-
tions. That task is left to future research. Nevertheless, although not definitive, we
believe the current data favor the latter ‘‘dual activation’explanation because that
explanation is most congenial to the significantly greater variability of responses
observed in the nonconformity condition. If the nonconformity primes inadver-
tently primed conformity for at least some of the participants, then one would
expect particularly variable responses among the group of participants exposed to
such primes. The priming stimuli would thus induce some participants to rebel
and others to conform.
Analogous asymmetries, of course, can be found elsewhere in the psychologi-
cal literature. One example is the marked/unmarked distinction mentioned earlier,
and another comes from the field of visual perception, where visual traits are often
encoded in a similar prototype–deviate dichotomy. For example, tilted lines tend
to be encoded as a straight line with a certain degree of deviating tilt, whereas a
straight line is coded independently as something of a standard (Triesmann &
Gormican, 1988). The additional activation that the deviate induces (a straight
line plus tilt) explains why it seems to ‘‘pop out’ in a display of prototypes
(straight lines), whereas a straight line does not pop out in a display of deviates.
The presence of the additional feature of the deviate (the deviating tilt) is easy to
587
NONCONSCIOUS CONFORMITY
jesp 1390
@xyserv2/disk3/CLS_jrnl/GRP_jesp/JOB_jesp35-6/DIV_323a01 rich
pick up in a field of stimuli that lack it; but the absence of such a feature is not so
easy to detect in a field of stimuli that contain it. This, of course, is the well-known
feature positive effect (Agostinelli, Sherman, Fazio, & Hearst, 1986; Fazio,
Sherman, & Herr, 1982; Hearst, 1991).
If this interpretation is correct, then the asymmetry in the effectiveness of the
conformity and nonconformity primes was not an artifact of our particular
paradigm, but a potentially general phenomenon worthy of investigation in its
own right. This interpretation also implies that it may be particularly difficult to
activate the construct of nonconformity lexically because the marked/unmarked
distinction applies most readily to verbal primes. This does not mean, however,
that the asymmetry applies only to verbal primes. To the extent that the marked/
unmarked distinction is more than a linguistic phenomenon—that it applies to the
very constructs of conformity and nonconformity—the same asymmetry is likely
to be found for nonlexical priming as well.
Much of the recent research on priming has been concerned with whether the
behavior elicited is ‘‘automatic’ in the sense of occurring without intention,
control, awareness, or attentional resources (for a review see Bargh, 1994). We
cannot say, of course, whether the conformity we observed in the two studies
reported here are automatic in each of these ways. That was not our goal. It is
clear, however, that our participants were not aware of the priming stimuli that
exerted an influence on their behavior, and in that sense the conformity observed
in these studies has something of an automatic quality. Thus our findings are
consistent with the proposition that although some instances of conformity may
be the product of conscious and agonizing deliberations, others may be less a
deliberate product of stimuli outside our awareness. Sometimes we find ourselves
‘‘just going along.’
REFERENCES
Agostinelli, G., Sherman, S. J., Fazio, R. H., & Hearst, E. (1986). Detecting and identifying change:
Additions vs. deletions. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Perfor-
mance, 12, 445–454.
Bargh, J. A. (1994). The Four Horsemen of automaticity:Awareness, intention, efficiency, and control
in social cognition. In R. S. Wyer, Jr., & T. K. Srull (Eds.), Handbook of social cognition (2nd ed.,
pp. 1–40). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Bargh, J. A., Chaiken, S., Govender, R., & Pratto, F. (1992). The generality of the automatic attitude
activation effect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,62, 893–912.
Bargh, J. A., Chen, M., & Burrows, L. (1996).Automaticity and social behavior: Direct effects of trait
construct and stereotype activation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 230–244.
Bilton, M., & Sim, K. (1971). Four hours in My Lai. New York: Viking Penguin.
Carver, C. S., Ganellen, R. J., Froming, W. J., & Chambers, W. (1983). Modeling: An analysis in terms
of category accessibility. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 19, 403–421.
Carroll, J., Davies, P., & Richman, B. (1971). The American heritage word frequency book. NewYork:
Houghton–Mifflin.
Chartrand, T. L., & Bargh, J. A. (1997). Automatic activation of impression formation and memoriza-
tion goals: Nonconscious goal priming reproduces effects of explicit task instructions. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 464–478.
588 EPLEY AND GILOVICH
jesp 1390
@xyserv2/disk3/CLS_jrnl/GRP_jesp/JOB_jesp35-6/DIV_323a01 rich
Chartrand, T. L., & Bargh, J. A. (1999). The chameleon effect: The perception–behavior link and
social interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 893–910.
Clark, H. H., & Clark, E. V. (1977). Psychology and language. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.
Fazio, R. H., Sanbonmatsu, D. M., Powell, M. C., & Kardes, F. R. (1986). On the automatic activation
of attitudes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 50, 229–238.
Fazio, R. H., Sherman, S. J., & Herr, P. M. (1982). The feature-positive effect in the self-perception
process: Does not doing matter as much as doing? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
42, 404–411.
Gilbert, D. T., Giesler, R. B., & Morris, K. A. (1995). When comparisons arise. Journal of Personality
and Social Psychology, 69, 227–236.
Greenwald, A. G., & Banaji, M. R. (1995). Implicit social cognition: Attitudes, self-esteem, &
stereotypes. Psychological Review, 102, 4–27.
Hearst, E. (1991). Psychology and nothing. American Scientist, 79, 432–443.
Herr, P. M. (1987). Consequences of priming: Judgment and behavior. Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology, 51, 1106–1115.
Mish, F. C., et al. (Eds.). (1989). The new Merriam–Webster dictionary (4th ed.). Springfield, MA:
Merriam–Webster.
Srull, T. K., & Wyer, R. S. (1979). The role of category accessibility in the interpretation of
information about persons: Some determinants and implications. Journal of Personality and
Social Psychology, 37, 1600–1672.
Triesmann, A., & Gormican, S. (1988). Feature analysis in early vision: Evidence from search
asymmetries. Psychological Review, 95, 15–48.
589NONCONSCIOUS CONFORMITY
jesp 1390
@xyserv2/disk3/CLS_jrnl/GRP_jesp/JOB_jesp35-6/DIV_323a01 rich
... Perceived social influence, defined as the degree to which individuals believe that important others in their social network endorse a behavior, is an important predictor of human decision-making (Fishbein and Ajzen, 2011). At the root of this influence is the innate need of humans for conformity with their community (Epley and Gilovich, 1999;Bikhchandani et al., 1998). This influence can also be found in the information systems (IS) context. ...
Article
Purpose Controversial information systems (IS) represent a unique context in which certain members of a user's social circle may endorse the use of a system while others object to it. The purpose of this paper is to explore the simultaneous and often conflicting roles of such positive and negative social influences through social learning and ambivalence theories in shaping user adoption intention of a representative case of controversial IS, namely online dating services (ODS). Design/methodology/approach The model was tested with two empirical studies using structural equation modeling techniques. The data of these studies were collected from 451 (Study 1) and 510 (Study 2) single individuals (i.e. not in a relationship). Findings (1) Positive social influence has a stronger impact on perceived benefits and adoption intention, while negative social influence exerts a greater impact on perceived risks; (2) positive and negative social influences affect adoption intention toward ODS differently, through benefit and risk assessments; and (3) ambivalence significantly negatively moderates the effects of social influences on adoption. Originality/value This study enriches and extends the IS use, ambivalence theory, prospect theory, and social learning theory research streams. Furthermore, this study suggests that it is necessary to focus on not only the oft-considered positive but also negative social influences in IS research.
... In addition, this study skipped the manipulation check of choice situation priming, following the tradition of other priming manipulation research (e.g., Berger and Fitzsimons 2008;Epley and Gilovich 1999). However, several pretests and in-depth interviews were conducted to make the final version of choice situation priming scenario and to select two products which were confirmed to differ in identity-relevance levels. ...
... First, respondents in the health impact group are primed to consider the pandemic's health and well-being effects for citizens, whereas respondents in the financial impact group are primed to consider the pandemic's future effects on the economic and financial situation of the municipality. Priming is an experimental technique aimed at activating memory of and association with a concept in a unobtrusive manner (Epley & Gilovich, 1999). Respondents in the health impact group were asked to respond to the following open-ended question: "In your view, what were the most important ways in which the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the health and well-being of the citizens in your municipality in the past months?" ...
Article
Full-text available
This study investigates how the negative economic prospects of the COVID‐19 pandemic affect local government politicians’ policy preferences in The Netherlands, The United Kingdom, Switzerland, and Spain. The study examines to what extent politicians prefer increasing the role of government (directive state), transferring public tasks to private sector organizations (hollow state), transferring public tasks to third sector organizations (communitarian state), or downsizing and reducing the role of government without transferring tasks (coping state). The experiment primes decision‐makers on the pandemic’s negative economic prospects vis‐à‐vis its impact on health and wellbeing. When negative economic prospects are emphasized, the study finds decreased preferences for a directive state and increased preferences for a coping state. The study concludes that how decision‐makers interpret the nature of a crisis determines their preferred response: an emphasis on the negative economic prospects of the COVID‐19 pandemic is likely to increase preferences for renewed policies of austerity. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
... Studies in social psychology have shown that instructions or information provided by other people can lead to conformity [16,[49][50][51] which manifests itself by matching responses of a given individual to these presented or suggested by others. The result of the current study did not show that observer's conformity was involved in observationally induced placebo analgesia. ...
Article
Full-text available
Previous studies have proved that observational learning can induce placebo analgesia, but the factors that influence observationally induced placebo analgesia have not yet been extensively examined. The primary goal of this study was to investigate the effect of information about the role that the observed person (model) plays in the experiment on the magnitude of the observationally induced placebo effect. This study also examined the contribution of the observer’s empathy, conformity and fear of pain to the placebo analgesia induced by observational learning. The effects induced in two experimental groups and one control group were compared. Participants in the experimental groups observed a model introduced as either another participant taking part in the study or a coworker of the experimenter. The model rated the intensity of pain induced by electrocutaneous stimuli preceded by color stimuli. One-half of all participants watched a model rating pain stimuli preceded by the color orange as higher than stimuli preceded by the color blue; for the other half, the ratings were the opposite. There was no observation in the control group. Subsequently, all participants received pain stimuli of the same intensity preceded by orange and blue stimuli and rated the intensity of the experienced pain. Placebo analgesia was found in both experimental groups. However, the way the observed model was introduced to participants did not affect the magnitude of placebo analgesia. Thus, the study showed that the role played by the model is not crucial for observationally induced placebo analgesia. The examined observer’s individual characteristics did not predict the magnitude of placebo effect.
... Anonymity in social settings, exemplified through social behaviours including certain types of conformity, can be used to deal with adverse self-awareness and perceptions of meaninglessness, consistent with the existential escape model (Wisman & Koole, 2003;Wisman & Shrira, 2006). Certain types of conformity are associated with dealing with stressors, withdrawing oneself and one's effort to deal with stressful circumstances (e.g., Asch, 1952), and low levels of deliberation and control (Alquist et al., 2013;Epley & Gilovich, 1999; see also Gudjonsson & Sigurdsson, 2003). Furthermore, conformity involves a loss of selfawareness in these forms (Diener, 1979;Mullen, 1991;Zimbardo, 2007). ...
Article
Boredom is a common, unpleasant emotion that conveys meaninglessness in life and compels people to escape from this adverse existential experience. Within the paradigm of social psychology frameworks, previous research found that bored people endorse cultural sources of meaning as compensation against this state (e.g., nostalgia, political ideologies). In recent years, another form of defence against meaning threats has been identified. An existential escape hypothesis relating to boredom claims that people seek to avoid meaninglessness when people encounter meaning threats such as boredom. By engaging in behaviours with low self-awareness, people counteract awareness of their bored and meaningless self. In this article, we review the current literature on boredom in light of such acts of existential escape. We also provide suggestions for future research to highlight under which circumstances people are more likely to engage in existential escape and identify phenomena that need to be tested within the escape process.
... Beyond the deliberate absence of factorialisation of this experimental induction, the reminder of the non-competitive dimension and even more, the cooperative dimension of human sciences studies may have induced this unexpected effect (see Van Lange et al., 2011). Rather than a real sense of cooperation, the idea of competition could have been exacerbated by evoking the term non-competition (i.e., "not a competitive system"), as Epley and Gilovich (1999) observed with the emergence of a sense of conformity with a priming of nonconformity. Moreover, with this procedure, we cannot rule out the impact of potential dispositional factors in our results. ...
Article
Full-text available
Several common characteristics are shared by competition and comparative optimism; and comparative optimism has often been observed in competitive environments like entrepreneurial fields or areas that require skills. Competitive context could be an explanatory factor for comparative optimism neglected to date. The aim of this article is to test the links between competition (vs. cooperation) and comparative optimism. In Study 1, participants in different academic majors with a more or less competitive nature (respectively, medical studies and human sciences studies) answered questions about their future and that of others. In Study 2, for the participants in the less competitive course of study (human sciences studies), we presented their studies as being either competitive or cooperative. The impact of this context was tested as a function of the closeness or distance between the participants and the comparison targets. The results of both studies showed that competition increased the expression of comparative optimism. In Study 2, this effect emerged more when the comparison target was distant than when it was close, with proximity hindering the competitive relationship between the self and others. The feeling of competition with others contributed to a better understanding of comparative optimism and initiated new explanations for its emergence.
... Individuals are, for example, less likely to conform to a group's norms when they know they will be held accountable for their actions (Quinn & Schlenker, 2002). Anonymity also increases levels of nonconformity (Tsikerdekis, 2013), as do situational primes that instantiate elevated levels of autonomy and independence (Epley & Gilovich, 1999) and physically separating individuals from others (Gardete, 2015). Although such interventions may affect only a small minority, they may be sufficient to undermine the group's unanimity. ...
... Continued)Abbreviations: COR, correlational; DM, decision maker; EMG, electromyography; FLD, field/lab-in-the-field experiment; LAB, lab experiment; NA, not available; NAT, econometric analysis of naturally occurring data; SAT, Scholastic Aptitude Test. aPendry & Carrick (2001) find an effect for priming nonconformity;Epley & Gilovich (1999) do not. bCosta & Kahn (2013) find boomerang effects for categorization; Allcott (2011) does not. ...
Article
I review evidence that individuals associate themselves—or identify—with groups in two fundamental ways: ingroup bias and conformity to group norms. The evidence spans many spheres of economic activity, including consumption, production, hiring, promotion, education, cooperation, financial investments, and law enforcement. Group identities are not fixed, even when it comes to ethnic and religious identities. I argue that the choice of identity can be captured by a simple trade-off between gains from group status and costs to distance from the group. I outline a simple conceptual framework that captures the main empirical regularities and illustrate how it can be used to study the two-way interaction between economic policy and social identity. The analysis implies, e.g., that inequality and immigration of low-skilled workers can strengthen nationalism and reduce redistribution, and that changes in the economic environment can produce shifts in identification patterns that feed into trade policy. Finally, I discuss open theoretical questions and domains where the interaction between identity and economic activity is not well understood. This includes the provision of public services, the evolution of gender norms, and the use of identity to motivate workers. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Economics, Volume 12 is August 3, 2020. Please see http://www.annualreviews.org/page/journal/pubdates for revised estimates.
Article
This study identifies tourist-to-tourist interaction as a significant antecedent of responsible tourist behaviour. The mechanism by which two types of tourist-to-tourist interaction (tourism information sharing and self-disclosure) influence two types of responsible tourist behaviour (basic responsible behaviour and extra responsible behaviour) was proposed and empirically tested. The results indicate that tourism information sharing and self-disclosure positively impact tourists’ perceived group norms. Nevertheless, perceived group norms can only increase basic responsible tourist behaviour. While destination attachment can be improved by tourism information sharing but not self-disclosure, it positively relates to both basic and extra responsible tourist behaviour. In terms of generational differences, Chinese Generation Y tourists are engaged in a higher level of tourism information sharing than Chinese Generation X tourists. Moreover, the relationship between self-disclosure and perceived group norms is significant for Generation X tourists but not for Generation Y tourists.
Article
Full-text available
The basic principles of modern sociolinguistic engineering as a tool for population indoctrination, subjugation, and control have their beginnings in the strategies designed by Joseph Goebbels of the NAZI regime and also those of the USSR. The redefinition of semantics is a dangerous tool used by propagandists to influence the individuals' sense of reality using language on a psychological level. This creates a populace that is more willing to follow harmful ideologies. The study will investigate existing legislation of Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and Canada about guarantees on free speech especially in academia, and the classification of hate speech. This study further looks at a microcosm of language used by the diversity, Inclusion, and Equity" movement focusing on an analysis of a glossary created by the University of Washington. It also discusses some terminology that is similarly erroneous but not included in the glossary. The history of terminology and their development is discussed as well as the scientific and linguistic validity of the provided semantic definitions in contrast to the original semantics. The study found that sociolinguistic engineering was taking place in universities and wider society which follows the historic pattern of the Third Reich and USSR. The study recommends that universities and education systems desist from such indoctrination and return to the traditional academic foundations of open inquiry and critical thinking.
Article
Full-text available
We hypothesized that attitudes characterized by a strong association between the attitude object and an evaluation of that object are capable of being activated from memory automatically upon mere presentation of the attitude object. We used a priming procedure to examine the extent to which the mere presentation of an attitude object would facilitate the latency with which subjects could indicate whether a subsequently presented target adjective had a positive or a negative connotation. Across three experiments, facilitation was observed on trials involving evaluatively congruent primes (attitude objects) and targets, provided that the attitude object possessed a strong evaluative association. In Experiments 1 and 2, preexperimentally strong and weak associations were identified via a measurement procedure. In Experiment 3, the strength of the object-evaluation association was manipulated. The results indicated that attitudes can be automatically activated and that the strength of the objectevaluation association determines the likelihood of such automatic activation. The implications of these findings for a variety of issues regarding attitudes—including their functional value, stability, effects on later behavior, and measurement—are discussed.
Article
The chameleon effect refers to nonconscious mimicry of the postures, mannerisms, facial expressions, and other behaviors of one's interaction partners, such that one's behavior passively rind unintentionally changes to match that of others in one's current social environment. The authors suggest that the mechanism involved is the perception-behavior link, the recently documented finding (e.g., J. A. Bargh, M. Chen, & L. Burrows, 1996) that the mere perception of another' s behavior automatically increases the likelihood of engaging in that behavior oneself Experiment 1 showed that the motor behavior of participants unintentionally matched that of strangers with whom they worked on a task. Experiment 2 had confederates mimic the posture and movements of participants and showed that mimicry facilitates the smoothness of interactions and increases liking between interaction partners. Experiment 3 showed that dispositionally empathic individuals exhibit the chameleon effect to a greater extent than do other people.
Book
automated social cognitive processes categorize, evaluate, and impute the meanings of behavior and other social information, and this input is then ready for use by conscious and controlled judgment and decision processes / review . . . the literature on automaticity in social cognition] / discuss the research in terms of its relevance for the] issues of awareness, intentionality, efficiency, and control (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)(chapter)
Article
According to the auto-motive model (J. A. Bargh, 1990), intentions and goals are represented mentally and, as representations, should be capable of nonconscious activation by the environmental context (i.e., "priming"). To test this hypothesis, the authors replicated 2 well-known experiments that had demonstrated differential effects of varying the information-processing goal (impression formation or memorization) on processing the identical behavioral information. However, instead of giving participants the goals via explicit instructions, as had been done in the original studies. the authors primed the impression formation or memorization goal. In both cases, the original pattern of results was reproduced. The findings thus support the hypothesis that the effect of activated goals is the same whether the activation is nonconscious or through an act of will. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
Many personality trait terms can be thought of as summary labels for broad conceptual categories that are used to encode information about an individual's behavior into memory. The likelihood that a behavior is encoded in terms of a particular trait category is postulated to be a function of the relative accessibility of that category in memory. In addition, the trait category used to encode a particular behavior is thought to affect subsequent judgments of the person along dimensions to which it is directly or indirectly related. To test these hypotheses, undergraduates first performed a sentence construction task that activated concepts associated with either hostility (Exp I, 96 Ss) or kindness (Exp II, 96 new Ss). As part of an ostensibly unrelated impression formation experiment, Ss later read a description of behaviors that were ambiguous with respect to hostility (kindness) and then rated the target person along a variety of trait dimensions. Ratings of the target along these dimensions increased with the number of times that the test concept had previously been activated in the sentence construction task and decreased with the time interval between these prior activations and presentation of the stimulus information to be encoded. Results suggest that category accessibility is a major determinant of the way in which social information is encoded into memory and subsequently used to make judgments. (22 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)