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Culture and Conformity

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My Tran

on 16 October 2012

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Transcript of Culture and Conformity

Culture Culture is a complex concept used to describe ways of life (examples include: good and eating habits, clothing, rituals, communication patterns, religion, and status behaviour). Sometimes it can describe the ‘surface culture’ (e.g. food in one place is different from another) and other times it is used to define the ‘deep culture’ (beliefs, attitudes, values etc.). According to Crane and Hannibal:

"One of the key ways that a society or culture passes down its values and behaviours to its member is through an indirect form of social influence called conformity. Conformity is the tendency to adjust one’s thoughts, feeling, 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 norm)." Social norm is the set of rules of a a specific groups that define what is viewed as appropriate/ inappropriate behaviours, values, beliefs, and attitudes. The norms are passed down, often through observational learning. The behaviours, conforming to the norms, is observed in the the group's "gatekeeper" (e.g. parents, teachers, religious leaders, and peers etc.). The norms create the sense of order and control. Social norms can be explicit (e.g. legal codes) or implicit (i.e. conventional practices and rituals). Examples of norms include attitude towards alcohol consumption or attitude towards spanking children. and Conformity Studies Study 1 Study 2 One of the dimensions of culture we should consider when using culture to understand social conformity, and what leads to the social conformity/ lack of conformity is whether it occurs in a collectivist or an individualist culture. (Note that since culture is very vague and contains a lot of variables, it should not be used as an explanation in itself – according to Kuschel, but rather a factor that can provide one with more understand as to why such things occur) In collectivist society, people are raised in a cohesive group, often with extended family (which includes aunts, uncles, grandparents). The members in the group are close and often dependent on each other for support and protection. They have to live up to the norms of the group or endure consequences. The group values, beliefs, and traditions are upheld and as a result, it is more likely for one to conform to the social expectations and norms. Additionally, it is more socially accepted for one to conform in a collectivist culture so it increases the conformity level of the people living in it. An example of a collectivist culture can be found in Japan. The Japanese saying that goes "The nail that stands out gets pounded down" underlines the consequences of not belonging to the group. In an individualist society, people are raised in a group where the ties between individuals are very loose. Everyone is expected to be independent in taking care of oneself or of one's "immediate family". In a lot of collectivist culture, conformity is not valued (for example, America, conformity is viewed as a negative trait). There is less social pressure since people are less interdependent. As a result, conformity levels are lower a society with individualist culture. An example is America. A proverb in America that goes: "The squeaky wheel gets the grease" shows that the one who stands out from the group will get the reward and attention. Study 2: Smith and Bond study – Culture and Conformity: A Meta-Analysis of Studies Using Asch’s (1952b, 1956) Line Judgement Task

Overview of the study

Asch Study on the effects of group pressure upon the modification and distortion of judgements. In this experiment, an individual is placed in a group with seven other members who are confederates. The members of the groups were asked to ask to judge and match the length of a given line to three other lines whose length differs. The perceptual relationships are simple, clear and can easily be determined. The individual, critical subject, often finds himself contradicted by the other members of the groups who have been told earlier to provide incorrect answers. However, the majority did respond correct some times (these were considered the neutral trials).
This study has been later repeated many times later. In certain experiment, it was replicated exactly, and in others, the type of question was changed so that it concerns pattern rather than lines, participants of different gender, ages, and educational background were also involved in the studies. Bond and Smith analysed the results of 133 studies of these kinds, which have been conducted in 17 different countries around the world. Results

The results showed that there were differences in the level of conformity, depending on the culture. It was found that there was a lower level of conformity in North America, and Western Europe (examples are France and Portugal) than other places including Asia (examples are Hong Kong and Japan,) Africa, and Fiji. From the analysis of the Study, Smith and Bond found that the levels of conformity in collectivist countries are higher than that in individualist countries. Evaluation

There are a number of different variables that are different if all of the studies have been compared together. For example, the questions, the genders, the age, and educational background of the participants varied from study to study. As a result, since the conditions are different, a lot of variables are present and therefore, other factors may be playing a role in producing the results that is seen.
Some also argue that the “Asch type” studies also present ethical issues as deception is involved. The critical subjects were deceived and were misinformed about the real purpose of the study. Nonetheless, the participants were debriefed in the end, which reduces the negative ethical implications. Furthermore, the participants were not exposed to any physical or psychological harm. Study 2: Sherif’s Autokinetic Effect Experiment (1936)

Overview of study

The aim of the experiment was to show the conformity of individuals to group norms when presented with ambiguous situation. Participants (male undergraduate and graduate students, ages between 19-30) were presented a small dot of light in a dark room, which created the illusion that the dot is moving closer despite the fact that is it stationary – this is also known as the autokinetic effect. Procedure and Results

The participants were placed into the room individually to make an individual judgement of how much the light moved and this found to be around 2-6 inches in most cases. They were given many trials to judge the movement and became consistent with their judgement in all the trials.
Then an individual was placed in a room (with another person or two other people) and were asked to generate one judgement together, people compromised, as Sherif noticed. Those who estimated 6 inches earlier now reduced their guess to 4 inches and those who saw 2 inches increased their guess to 4 inches. The subjects often changed their estimate to match others in their group when asked to later estimate the movement individually again. In other words, they have conformed to the group norms. The group norm, which is an agreement (compromised in this case) have been established through the interaction of the individuals (within the group). The result of the experiment showed that people will conform to group norms in ambiguous situation where their knowledge is limited. Through observing others, individuals in this situation will gain information they may be as better / more correct because they will look to others for guidance. Evaluation
There is a gender imbalance as all of the participants were male college student.
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