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Culture and Conformity

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on 5 March 2014

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Transcript of Culture and Conformity

Culture and Conformity
In collectivist cultures social behavior is determined largely by goals shared with the collective, and if there is a conflict between personal and collective goals, it is considered socially desirable to place
collective goals

ahead of personal goals.

The Japanese have a saying that “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.”

Cross cultural research into conformity (Berry, 1967)

Individualism and Collectivism
Collectivist countries tend to show higher levels of conformity than individualist countries.
Effect/Impact of Collectivist Cultures on the Level of Conformity
To see how the level of conformity varies in two different cultures.
A variation of Asch’s conformity paradigm was used to study the Temne people of Sierra Leone and the Inuit people of Canada to study the level of conformity of the two cultures.
The Temne people of Sierra Leone conformed significantly more than the Inuit people of Canada.
Berry explained this in terms of differences in economic practices. The Temne people have to survive on a single crop that is harvested by all the people in the community, which requires cooperation and coordination of effort. Berry explained that this is why the Temne culture focuses strongly on consensus and agreement. He found that consensus is less strongly focused in Inuit culture because the Inuit economy is based on continual hunting and gathering on a relatively individual basis.
The same experiment was done to both cultures, and the high degree of
ensures that a
cause-effect relationship
can be established between variables.
Results of the experiment in terms of conformity rates can, to some extent, explain why people in individualist and collectivist cultures conform to social and cultural norms in real life.
Variation of conformity rates across cultures is supported through the experiment.
Different cultures were experimented on,
reducing cultural bias

A variation of Asch’s experiment means that it is a
laboratory experiment
, which
lacks ecological validity
A laboratory setting could have induced
demand characteristics
of the participants.
Results c
annot be generalized
to real life and
individualist or collectivist cultures.
Confounding variables
exist. It could be that the Temne people value conformity and obedience more than the Inuit people do, affecting the results of the experiment. This may be the variable rather than the economic practices being the variable.
Prarthana & Eui Joon
"The tendency to adjust one’s thoughts, feelings, or behavior 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)."
Indirect form of SOCIAL INFLUENCE
unconscious assimilation of behavior/opinions/
the belief that the needs of each person are more important than the needs of the whole society or group
In individualist societies, the
ties between individuals are loose
: everyone is expected to look after himself or herself and his or her immediate family.
emphasis on collective rather than individual action or identity
In collectivist societies, people are integrated into strong, cohesive in-groups, often extended families, which provides them with support and protection. However, if an individual does not live up to the norms of the family or the larger social group, the consequences can sometimes be severe.
Effect/Impact of Individualist Cultures on the Level of Conformity
To see how the level of conformity varies among studies conducted in different cultural environments (particularly comparing individualist and collectivist cultures)
Performed a
meta-analysis of 133 studies in 17 different countries
on the Asch paradigm.
Higher conformity levels in collectivistic cultures than in individualistic cultures.
The level of conformity (indicated by the percentage of incorrect answers)
in an experiment with Belgian students (Doms, 1983)
among Indian teachers in Fiji (Chandra, 1973)
Level of conformity=higher when majority group was large
Countries are
not homogenous: differences in individualist and collectivist values within countries
USA, Canada, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Portugal, Japan, Hong Kong, Fijiu, Zimbabwe, Congo (Zaire), Ghana, Brazil, Kuwait and Lebanon.
Conformity experiments & surveys of cultural values were biased toward sampling from the middle class and from the majority groups within each country
Most studies: participants were students from the
middle-class majority group
, and survey respondents: predominately middle-class respondents.
Students from higher social class and urban areas: believed to be more individualistic (Triandis, 1989)
Those with more
collectivist values may be under- represented
in the conformity studies.
Different studies examined=different time periods=
change in social values
may be the real explanation for a change in the level of conformity
Lack of variety in cultures
that were examined: a large number of US studies were examined=may have affected interpretation of average results.
Cultural differences in many factors (particularly regarding the method)
i.e. the relevance, familiarity, or difficulty of the method
Method of
assessing/defining conformity
: assessing responsiveness to group pressure across cultures may not be a true indicator
Relation of individualism and collectivism to the process of social influence requires further clarification
"Conformity is an imprecise concept"
Conformity has declined in the United States over time
Asch paradigm: supported by various studies-- generally accepted as a reliable means of investigating levels of conformity
Large number of studies that were examined: variations/extensions-- related to Asch paradigm. Method=largely homogenous and connections are clear.
Individualist cultures: award social status to personal accomplishments

Individuals are not discouraged from dissenting and standing out, and individuals prioritize their own goals, thoughts, opinions, etc.; thus they may be less likely to conform.

Not as much social pressure to conform.
Various cultural environments were examined
Large sample of participants: data gathered from a large number of studies, each with a multitude of strengths and variables.
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