Review of Philosophy and Psychology

, Volume 4, Issue 4, pp 751–764 | Cite as

Conformorality. A Study on Group Conditioning of Normative Judgment

  • Chiara Lisciandra
  • Marie Postma-Nilsenová
  • Matteo Colombo


How does other people’s opinion affect judgments of norm transgressions? In our study, we used a modification of the famous Asch paradigm (1951, 1955) to examine conformity in the moral domain. The question we addressed was how peer group opinion alters normative judgments of scenarios involving violations of moral, social, and decency norms. The results indicate that even moral norms are subject to conformity, especially in situations with a high degree of social presence. Interestingly, the degree of conformity can distinguish between different types of norms.


Social Norm Moral Norm Social Presence Norm Type Social Convention 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors would like to thank Hans Westerbeek, Stephan Hartmann, Natalie Gold, Francesco Guala, Edouard Machery, Henrik Singmann, Carel van Wijk and Eric Postma as well as to the audiences of the following workshops and conferences where the paper was presented, including:

• Philosophy, Politics and Economics Talk, University of Pennsylvania. USA, March 2012

• Rotterdam-TilburgWorkshop in Philosophy of Science. Tilburg University, The Netherlands, November 2011

• Workshop on Formal Epistemology Meets Experimental Philosophy, Tilburg University, The Netherlands, September 2011

• Workshop on Morality and the Cognitive Sciences. University of Latvia, Latvia, May 2011

MC is grateful to the British Society for the Philosophy of Science and to the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft-priority program “New Frameworks of Rationality” (SPP 1516) for financial support.


  1. Asch, S. 1951. Effects of group pressure on the modification and distortion of judgments. In Groups, leadership and men, ed. H. Guetzkow, 177–190. Pittsburgh: Carnegie Press.Google Scholar
  2. Asch, S. 1955. Opinions and social pressure. Scientific American 193: 33–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bicchieri, C. 2006. The grammar of society. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  4. Bicchieri, C. 2008. The fragility of fairness: An experimental investigation on the conditional status of pro-social norms. Philosophical Issues 18: 229–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bordia, P. 1997. Face-to-face versus computer-mediated communication: A synthesis of the experimental literature. The Journal of Business Communication 34: 99–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Burger, J.M., S. Soroka, K. Gonzago, E. Murphy, and E. Somervell. 2001. The effect of fleeting attraction on compliance to requests. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 27: 1578–1586.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cialdini, R.B., and N.J. Goldstein. 2004. Social influence: Compliance and conformity. Annual Review of Psychology 55: 591–621.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cialdini, R., C. Kallgren, and R. Reno. 1991. A focus theory of normative conduct: A theoretical refinement and reevaluation of the role of norms in human behavior. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology 24: 201–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cinnirella, M., and B. Green. 2007. Does ‘cyber-conformity’ vary cross-culturally? Exploring the effect of culture and communication medium on social conformity. Computers in Human Behavior 23: 2011–2025.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Elster, J. 1990. Norms of revenge. Ethics 100: 826–885.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Elster, J. 2009. Social norms and the explanation of behavior. In The Oxford handbook of analytical sociology, ed. P. Hedström and P. Bearman, 195–217. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Greene, J.D., R. Sommerville, L. Nystrom, J. Darley, and J. Cohen. 2001. An fMRI investigation of emotional engagement in moral judgment. Science 293: 2105–2108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Greene, J.D., L.E. Nystrom, A.D. Engell, J.M. Darley, and J.D. Cohen. 2004. The neural bases of cognitive conflict and control in moral judgment. Neuron 44: 389–400.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Haidt, J. 2001. The emotional dog and its rational tail: A social intuitionist approach to moral judgment. Psychological Review 108: 814–834.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Haidt, J., S. Koller, and M. Dias. 1993. Affect, culture, and morality, or is it wrong to eat your dog? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 65: 613–628.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Henrich, J., and R. Boyd. 1998. The evolution of conformist transmission and the emergence of between-group differences. Evolution & Human Behavior 19: 215–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hiltz, S.R., K. Johnson, and M. Turoff. 1986. Experiments in group decision making communication process and outcome in face-to-face versus computerized conferences. Human Communication Research 13: 225–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hogg, M.A., and S.A. Reid. 2006. Social identity, self-categorization, and the communication of group norms. Communication Theory 16: 7–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Huebner, B., S. Dwyer, and M. Hauser. 2009. The role of emotion in moral psychology. Trends in Cognitive Science 13: 1–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kelly, D. 2011. Yuck! The nature and moral significance of disgust. Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  21. Kelly, D., S. Stich, K. Haley, S. Eng, and D. Fessler. 2007. Harm, affect and the moral/conventional distinction. Mind and Language 22: 117–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Knobe, J. 2003. Intentional action and side effects in ordinary language. Analysis 63: 190–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Laporte, L., C. van Nimwegen, and A.J. Uyttendaele. 2010. Do people say what they think: Social conformity behavior in varying degrees of online social presence. In Proceedings of NordiCHI 2010, eds. E.B. Hvannberg, M.K. Lárusdóttir, A. Blandford and J. Gulliksen, 305–314.Google Scholar
  24. Milgram, S. 1963. Behavioral study of obedience. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 67: 371–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Nado, J., D. Kelly, and S. Stich. 2009. Moral judgment. In The Routledge companion to the philosophy of psychology, ed. J. Symons and P. Calvo, 621–633. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  26. Nichols, S. 2002. Norms with feeling: Towards a psychological account of moral judgment. Cognition 84: 221–236.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Nichols, S. 2004. Sentimental rules: On the natural foundations of moral judgment. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nucci, L. 2001. Education in the moral domain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Nucci, L., and E. Turiel. 1978. Social interactions and the development of social concepts in preschool children. Child Development 49: 400–407.Google Scholar
  30. Prinz, J. 2006. The emotional basis of moral judgments. Philosophical Explorations 9: 29–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Puntoni, S., B. de Langhe, and S. Van Osselaer. 2008. Bilingualism and the emotional intensity of advertising language. Journal of Consumer Research 35: 1012–1025.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Royzman, E., R. Leeman, and J. Baron. 2009. Unsentimental ethics: Towards a content-specific account of the moral-conventional distinction. Cognition 112: 159–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Royzman, E.B., G.P. Goodwin, and R.F. Leeman. 2011. When sentimental rules collide: Norms with feelings in the dilemmatic context. Cognition 121: 101–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Rozin, P., M. Markwith, and C.R. McCauley. 1994. Sensitivity to indirect contacts with other persons: AIDS aversion as a composite of aversion to strangers, infection, moral taint and misfortune. Journal of Abnormal Psychology 103: 495–504.Google Scholar
  35. Schnall, S., J. Haidt, G.L. Clore, and A.H. Jordan. 2008. Disgust as embodied moral judgment. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 34: 1096–1109.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Schultz, P.W., J.M. Nolan, R.B. Cialdini, N.J. Goldstein, and V. Griskevicius. 2007. The constructive, destructive, and reconstructive power of social norms. Psychological Science 18: 429–434.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Short, J., E. Williams, and B. Christie. 1976. The social psychology of telecommunications. London: Wiley.Google Scholar
  38. Singer, P. 1972. Famine, affluence, and morality. Philosophy and Public Affairs 1: 229–243.Google Scholar
  39. Smetana, J. 1993. Understanding of social rules. In The development of social cognition: The child as psychologist, ed. M. Bennett. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  40. Smilowitz, M., C. Compton, and L. Flint. 1988. The effect of computer mediated communication on an individual’s judgement: A study based on the methods of Asch’s social influence experiment. Computers in Human Behavior 4: 311–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Sousa, P. 2009. On testing the ‘moral law’. Mind & Language 24: 209–234.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Sousa, P., C. Holbrook, and J. Piazza. 2009. The morality of harm. Cognition 113: 80–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Stich, S., D. Fessler, and D. Kelly. 2009. On the morality of harm: A response to Sousa, Holbrook and Piazza. Cognition 113(1): 93–97.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Tajfel, H., M. Billig, R. Bundy, and C. Flament. 1971. Social categorization and intergroup behaviour. European Journal of Social Psychology 1: 149–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Turiel, E. 1977. Distinct conceptual and developmental domains: Social convention and morality. In Nebraska Symposium on Motivation, eds. H. Howe and C. Keasey Lincoln, Social Cognitive Development, 25, 77–116. University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
  46. Turiel, E. 1983. The development of social knowledge: Morality and convention. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Turiel, E. 2002. The culture of morality: Social development, context and conflict. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Van Lankveld, G., P. Spronck, J. van den Herik, and A. Arntz. 2011. Games as personality profiling tools. In Proceedings of the 2011 I.E. Conference on Computational Intelligence in Games (CIG’11), ed. M. Preuss, 197–202.Google Scholar
  49. Wheatley, T., and J. Haidt. 2005. Hypnotically induced disgust makes moral judgments more severe. Psychological Science 16: 780–784.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Whiten, A., V. Horner, and F.B. de Waal. 2005. Conformity to cultural norms of tool use in chimpanzees. Nature 437: 737–740.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chiara Lisciandra
    • 1
  • Marie Postma-Nilsenová
    • 2
  • Matteo Colombo
    • 3
  1. 1.Munich Center for Mathematical PhilosophyLMU MunichMunichGermany
  2. 2.Department of Communication and Information SciencesTilburg UniversityTilburgThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Tilburg Center for Logic and Philosophy of ScienceTilburg UniversityTilburgThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations