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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reconstrual of the stimulus in majority and minority influence Scratchley, Linda Sharon


This research attempted to demonstrate that faction size affects what people are looking for when they attend to conformity stimuli. It was expected that subjects exposed to a majority look for valid informational reasons to agree with the advocated norm, subjects exposed to one influence source attempt to validate the other's judgment, and subjects exposed to a minority attempt both to validate and understand the reason for the minority's judgment. Reconstrual of the stimulus was the proposed mechanism by which majority subjects could find reasons to agree with advocated norm and minority subjects could come to understand the reason for the advocated norm. Thus, stimulus reconstrual was expected to mediate conformity and facilitate private acceptance. Faction size, norm extremity, and attention to the stimulus were manipulated; conformity, reconstrual of the stimulus, and subsequent private acceptance were measured. The stimuli consisted of trait adjectives that subjects rated for positivity during the conformity task. It was found that conformity was greater with a large faction, high attention, and high norm extremity. A main effect for attention had not been found in past research that used perceptual stimuli. It is argued that this difference in findings reflects some fundamental difference between factual judgments (e.g., perceptual stimuli) and value judgments (e.g., trait ratings). More specifically, it is argued that with factual judgments there is an objectively correct answer, whereas with value judgments "correctness" is determined by social comparison. The mplications of the presence or absence of an objectively correct response is discussed with regard to the balance between normative and informational influence mechanisms. In parallel to the effect on conformity it was also found that higher attention increased reconstrual and private acceptance. However, the Faction Size X Attention interaction, which was significant for private acceptance and marginal for reconstrual, indicated that these effects of attention were more pronounced for subjects exposed to a minority than for subjects exposed to a majority. Majority subjects showed almost the same amounts of reconstrual and private acceptance in response to both the high- and low-attention trials. Since it is assumed that subjects did not have enough time to reconstrue the stimulus before they gave their public response on the low-attention trials, this unexpected finding raises questions about the temporal ordering of conformity and reconstrual. That is does reconstrual precede and mediate conformity or succeed and justify conformity, and does the answer vary according to faction size and attention conditions. The present study could not directly answer these questions. Although no clear answer is provided to the question of whether faction size affects what subjects look for when they attend to conformity stimuli, a number of fruitful avenues for future research are discussed.

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