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Li Chun Ho IB Psychology Higher Essay Question: Evaluate research on conformity to group norms.

Conformity is the tendency to change our behavior and attitude in response to group pressure and the influence of others. It is a form of social influence where we adjust our responses so they fit with those of a particular group or individual. I would be evaluating Aschs conformity study (1951) using Hofstedes research on cultural dimensions (1973), Friend et als (1990) evaluation of Asch paradigm and Matsumatos definition of culture (2004). Research on conformity began by Asch (1951), who investigated the extent individuals conform to the unanimous views of a group. This was explored by having a participant entering a room of 6 confederates disguised as other participants. In front of them was a picture with 3 vertical black lines, with obviously different lengths. It was arranged so that all the confederates were asked aloud which line was the longest, placing the participant as the last of the line. Confederates would incorrectly answer 12 of the 18 trials. The findings placed the rate of conformity at 32%, with 74% conforming at least one, and 25% never conformed. Participants later reported that they experienced self-doubt but nevertheless agreed with the rest of the participants for fear of going against the entire group, as they wanted a sense of belonging. In this sense, normative influence has been generated. The Asch paradigm supports that culture influences behavior. The study received much criticism. In terms of ethical considerations, deception was involved for participants were told that the aim of the experiment was to examine visual perception. By doing so, fully informed consent was prevented and gave participants a mistaken and wrong belief about the study. Although during debrief participants were explained the true nature of the study, participants may have felt embarrassed and upset that their attitude towards other peoples answers were being studied. There is also a question of ecological validity and reliability for in the real naturalistic world, rarely are people asked to make a judgment on something where the answer is very obvious. Ecological validity is the confidence that the conclusions of a study can be generalized to naturally occurring situations. Because it is rare that such vision perception questions may arise in the real world, it is highly artificial, making it difficult to assert the findings can be generalized into the total population. Furthermore, there is sample bias as the sample was unrepresentative since all participants were male university students. Other studies have suggested that culture also plays an important role in conformity. Hofstedes 1973 research analyzed different dimensions in many countries that included individualism and collectivism. This is to the extent that they characterize themselves by personal or collective values to show their sense of belonging. Hofstede suggested that people tend to conform because of their collectivist backgrounds, compared to those with individualist backgrounds. This is conflicting Aschs study, where he suggested people conform to fit in. This view is also supported by Bond and Smith (1980) who conducted a meta-analysis of 133 conformity studies based on Aschs paradigm. It was found participants from collectivist countries conformed more compared to individualistic countries. However, it must also be considered that labeling countries as collectivistic and individualistic may lead to stereotyping, negatively affecting our schema as well as committing hasty generalization. Friend et al (1990)s critique of the Asch paradigm suggested there was a bias in the interpretation of the findings. His claim was that people who didnt conformed werent studied and that more people 1

Li Chun Ho IB Psychology Higher Essay Question: Evaluate research on conformity to group norms. should have conformed if it was an important cultural impact. Therefore, he argues that questions on why people didnt conform werent answered, and should be answered. In addition, Matsumotos definition goes against Aschs study, for he describes culture as, a dynamic system of rules, explicit and implicit, established by groups in order to ensure their survival, involving attitudes, values, beliefs, norms and behaviours (2004). This is conflicting because dynamic suggests a phenomena evolves and changes over time; it is time specific. The conduct of Aschs study was in the 1950s, where it was a reflection of American culture at that time rather than conformity that can be generalized to other times and cases. This is moreover supported by Stang (1973) who found that it was less likely for participants with high self-esteem to conform to incorrect responses. This moreover reveals the complexity of conformity and that it is influenced by many factors including culture.