Behaviour Change

PROPAGANDA FOR CHANGE is a project created by the students of Behaviour Change (ps359) and Professor Thomas Hills @thomhills at the Psychology Department of the University of Warwick. This work was supported by funding from Warwick's Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Power of Uniforms!!

Clothes is very important as it symbolises the status of a person and also cultures in different ceremony. A lot of researches have investigated into the effect of apparel on several types of behaviours, such as aggressive behaviour and honesty. In the experiment done by Bushman (1988), it focused on the investigation of formal uniforms and the effect of compliance.  As uniform symbolises authority and legitimacy, this study can demonstrate that authority can make people comply in situations. 

In this study, 150 adult pedestrians were recruited in St. Louis, Missouri.  The selection condition is that the subject was alone and did not see the interaction between the confederate and the previous subject.  The confederate would be either wearing an old yellow T-shirt with brown pants (a pretty casual outfit), business attire or an ambiguous, but salient uniform with a "Manchester Explorer" patch on the sleeve. The experimenter would be standing next to car that had a expired parking permit.  The confederate would be standing away from the car and asked the subject to help the experimenter with some changes.  The confederate would raise her hand and say "this fellow is overparked at the meter and doesn't have any changes. Give him a nikel!"  Two nonobstrusive observers would record the behaviour of subjects.  The experimenter would later asked about the motives of the helping behaviour and had that recorded on a cassette recorder later on.  The subjects were debriefed after the short experimental session on the nature of the study.

The independent variable is the level of perceived authority, which is divided into 3 levels.  They were the no-authority condition, the status-authority condition and the role-authority condition.  The dependent variable is compliance which was defined as the subject's giving the experimenter change for the parking meter. Verbal reasons given by the subject were recorded. They were divided into four categories for complying: altruism, compliance, unquestioned obedience, or ambiguous.  As for not complying, the categories were no change, questioned perceived authority, silent and hostile.

The result of study showed that there is a significant difference in compliance rates as a function of apparel.  72% of the subject complied in the role-authority condition, which was the highest among all three conditions.  The percentage for the status-authority and no-authority group were 48% and 52 respectively.  No difference were found between the no-authority and status-authority condition. Among all the reason given for complying, unquestioned obedience has the highest percentage for status-authority and role-authority.

The study was in line with previous researches on similar topics and indicated that uniform can make people comply more, thus proving authority is one of the compliance tactics that is really working in our daily life.

Bushman, B, J. (1988) The Effects of Apparel on Compliance: A Field Experiment with a Female Authority Figure. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 14, 459-467.

Chermaine Chan Kei Fong - Blog 3

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