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Evaluate Research on Conformity Making Reference to 2 Studies Essay

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Conformity is the tendency to adjust one’s thoughts, feelings or behaviour in ways that are in agreement with those of a particular individual or group, or with accepted standards about how a person should behave in specific situations (social norms). It is also the key ways that a society or culture passes down its values or behaviours to its peers through an indirect form of social influence.

Deusch and Gerald (1995) first presented that the reasons of people conforming is due to two factors that are information social influence and normative social influences.

Information social influence is based on the ways people cognitively process information about specific situations. Normative social influence is based on our nature as social animals, and our need to be accepted and to ‘belong’ in society. Individuals often conform to avoid rejection and gain social approval within society.

Festinger (1954) also agreed that people evaluate their own opinions and judgement through social comparisons, which is when the individual compares themselves to the peers around them When one realizes that others are not behaving in the same way, or think differently, it leads to anxiety, which is known as cognitive dissonance.

In order to test for conformity, Asch carried a test where the subject was given a simple task of matching a length of line to one of three other comparison lines.

The control subjects (who were able to take the test alone without any confederates) that served as the comparison to the variable (the individual who was tested for conformity) made almost no errors. In the experimental condition, one individual was tested but were surrounded by seven other confederates of the experimenter, who were told to give wrong estimates almost 70% of the trials. The subject was also second to last giving their answers, so that they were faced either giving their own opinion or conforming to the group.

The average rate of conformity was 32%. 74% conformed at least once and 26% never conformed. In order to identity factors influencing conformity, Asch conducted variations to his experiment. Asch found out that with only one confederate, only 3% of the participant conformed, and with two confederates the rate rose to 14% and with three confederates, it rose to 32%. Larger groups did not increase the rate of conformity. Unanimity was an another factor, where conformity was more prominent when all the confederates agreed.

If one of the confederates disagreed, the participant was less likely to conform. The difficulty of the task also increased conformity. Also when the participant was given the choice to write down their response, conformity decreased. Confidence and self-esteem was another significant role in influencing the participants, as people with high confidence strongly believed in their opinion, and were less likely to conform. However, even the participants that did not conform still felt strong social pressure.

Although these results were quite reliable to a certain extent, there were multiple criticism towards the experiment. The experiment was considered ‘artificial’ with low ecological validity. There were also ‘demanding characteristics,’ where the participant may have changed their behaviour in order to please researchers. Also there was a lack in cultural diversity as the experiment may only represent the US in 1940-1950s. Because the individuals were placed in deception and anxiety, it also resulted in ethic concerns.

Also, there were ethic concerns as the individuals were placed in deception and anxiety. Berry (1967) suggested that conformity is required by their respective survival level economics. Low food receiving societies tend to produce self-reliant independent individuals, while high food producing societies are group reliant and dependent. He also proved his theory by using a variation of Asch’s experiment through using samples of the Temne Sierra Leone and the Inuit people of Canada.

Hunting and fishing in Eskimos show great tolerance in disciplining children, therefore resulting in independent and risk taking individuals. Rich farming Temne people apply strict disciplinary measures, resulting in more dependent and group reliant individuals. Therefore the experiment resulted that the Temne people of Sierra Leone conformed significantly more than the Inuit people of Canada, probably because of the economic differences.

The Temne people usually had to survive on a single crop that is harvested by all the people in the society, therefore requiring each other’s trust and coordination of effort. . The culture also mainly focuses on agreement and harmony. Consensus is less present in Inuit culture as their economy is based on continual hunting and gathering on a relatively individual basis. However sometimes, there have been several examples of minority commitment to a view not held by the majority throughout the 20th century.

This includes women’s right’s to vote in civil rights movement, environmental movement etc. Also research proved that minority opinions are significant in a group’s decision-making process. Groupthink happens when someone in a group suggest an idea, and everyone accepts the idea without considering other possible opinions It represents the group members having concordant opinions in an issue, resulting in not seeking alternative or disagreeing opinions, often because optimism prevents their decisions from becoming successful.

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