Describe the role of situational and dispositional factors in explaining behaviour. (8)

Describe (8) – Give a detail account.


Actor-observer effect

Two factors of attributions

Philip Zimbardo – Stanford Prison Experiment (Conformity/SIT)
[A] Prove that situational factors can affect behaviour.
  • 22 male subjects were selected through personality assessment based on their mental stability, maturity and social ability.
  • Randomly assigned the role of either prisoner or warden.
  • "Prisoners"
  • Signed a consent document that some of their human rights will be suspended for the experiment and that all subjects would receive $15 a day up to 2 weeks.
  • "Arrested" by surprise by real police from their house, taken to a real police station for standard procedures.
  • Driven blindfolded to a prison (set, not a real prison) where they were stripped naked, delouse, and dressed in prisoner uniform.
  • Stayed in the prison for 24 hours a day, followed a schedule of work, rest and meal.
  • "Wardens"
  • Put on warden costumes with the correct props. They worked 8 hours a day, and were given no specific instructions.
  • Asked to keep a reasonable degree of order and were prohibited against any means of physical violence.
  • Experiment was terminated in 6 days, instead of the intended 14 days due to abnormal reactions shown by both prisoners and wardens.
  • "Prisoners"
  • Displayed passivity and dependence. Half the prisoners showed signs of depression, crying, fits of rage, acute anxiety.
  • Due to this reason, they were released early.
  • All but two prisoners would forfeit the money if they could be released early.
  • Experimenters proposed that these behaviours were results of the loss of personal identity, dependency and learned helplessness.
  • "Wardens"
  • Displayed huge enjoyment of power at their disposal, leading towards abusive use of power, dehumanizing the prisoners.
  • Some wardens worked extra time with no extra pay and were disappointed that the experiment was over.
  • They punished the prisoners for no apparent justifications (abusive use of power).
  • Not all wardens displayed aggression, but none opposed other’s use of it.
  • The situation (prison environment) affected all participant’s behaviour.
  • Arguable that the environment of a prison is what causes prisoners to act violently.
  • Supports SIT
  • Displayed the categorisation and development of identity in both groups.
  • Ecological validity: Low, lab environment, overt observation.
  • Prohibition of physical violence limited the generalising ability of the experiment.
  • Experimenters argue that…
  • The functional equivalent of the prison system (setting, costumes etc.) were implemented.
  • Reactions and behaviours of the subjects exceeded the level of “role play”.
  • Calling each other by ID number in private, wardens showed aggression even when they thought they were not being watched.
  • Reliability: Experiment was not repeated until years after, subjects did not act as predicted.
  • Culture bias: only studied subjects from the US.
  • Ethical considerations and issues.
  • Participants signed consent forms, but they had no clear idea of the procedure of the experiment.
  • Induced aggression in subjects.
  • Created discrimination and violence.
  • Gender bias: only male subjects were used.

Solomon Asch – Asch’s Paradigm Experiment (Conformity)
[A] Investigate the existence of conformity.
  • Subject was placed into a room with 6 confederates and the experimenter.
  • Subject was deceived that the 6 confederates were participants just like them.
  • The subject was placed on the second last seat so they will be the second last to give an answer.
  • The group of subject and confederates were asked to select the line on the second card that matched the line on the first card.
  • There were 18 sets of cards in total, some of which had lines that were completely different in length, others are similar in length.
  • Confederates were instructed to answer correctly on some of the cards but answer incorrectly for most.
  • 75% conformed at least once to the wrong answer
  • 32% conformed to more than half of the wrong answers
  • 24% did not conform at all
  • Conformity happened
  • Those who did not conform sparked further research
  • Ecological validity: Low, lab conditions.
  • Controlled environment removed confounding variables.
  • Meaningless stimuli.
  • Gender bias, only male participants were used.
  • Culture bias, only population of the US were used.
  • Cannot be generalised to all population.
  • Ethics: Deception, but subjects were debriefed.