Conformity discussion Essay

Published: 2020-02-17 06:10:06
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Conformity was first researched by Jenness (1932) who placed a large number of beans in a bottle and asked students to estimate the number and then arranged for them to discuss their guesses with a group, later when asked to give their estimates again; he found their individual estimates had converged towards that of the group. In Sherifs (1935) study of conformity, Sherif used the autokinetic effect in which a stationary spotlight in the dark seems to be moving due to slight movements of the eye. When participants were asked by how much and in what direction did the spotlight move they tended to make judgements that were very close to each others when placed in a group. The fact that a group norm rapidly replaced the personal norms of the members of the group indicates the existence of social influence.

Asch questioned the results of Sheriffs study and claimed that participants only conformed because the stimulus was ambiguous. Asch (1951) set up a situation in which 7 people all sat looking at a display they were given the task of saying out loud which one of the three lines a, b or c was the same the same length as the given stimulus line all but one of the participants were confederates. On the crucial trials on which the confederates all gave the same wrong answer the genuine participant also gave the wrong answer on 37% of these trials. This showed that group pressures to conform were stronger then previously thought since the situation was unambiguous.

This led to Deutsh and Gerard (1955) to identify two explanations for conformity, Normative and Informational influence. The latter occurs when an individual conforms because of the superior knowledge or judgement of others as in Sherifs (1935) study of conformity. Informational influence tends to lead to a change in private opinion. Normative influence occurs when an individual conforms because the person wants to be liked by the other members of a group, and also wants to avoid rejection as in Asch (1951). Normative influence is not likely to change private opinions but public opinions.

However, since these studies it has been found that there exists a historical difference and cultural differences in conformity. One of the limitations of Aschs work was the background of the participants; obtained from the United States in the early 1940s, Americans were said to be more conformist than other people. Perrin & Spencer (1980) conducted research in which they repeated Aschs study in England and found little evidence of conformity in comparison to Aschs study, leading them to conclude that Aschs study was a child of its time. In addition to this Smith and Bond (1993) carried out an analysis of a number of studies that had used Aschs task in the United States.

They concluded that: Levels of conformity in general had steadily declined since Aschs study in the early 1950s. Still, Perrin & Spencers study was criticized on the grounds that the participants they selected were educated to a high standard and therefore had more confidence in their opinion. This together with Smith and Bonds research suggests that the decline in conformity through time has been largely due to changes in education practices.

Hence the aim of this study is to investigate levels of conformity amongst sixth form tutors at Moseley UK, it is presumed that there will be little evidence of conformity since the participants have been through an education system that supposedly promotes independent thinking, as well as the time difference between now, and the original conformity studies. It is also true that the participants experience of society will reflect that of an individualistic nature where the emphasis is on and around the individual to have a sense of personal identity, thus reducing the likelihood of conformity. This will be done by partially replicating the Jennes jellybean study.

Experimental hypothesis: The participants will produce estimates that are close to the fake answers already written down in the high and low conditions. Null Hypothesis: The participants estimates will be unaffected by the fake answers already written down in the high and low conditions. The experimental hypothesis is based on previous research.

Method Design Field Experiment design in that experiment was conducted within the school, this design was preferred as it was the most cost and time effective. Independent and Dependant variables included (IV= Condition, DV=estimate). There were 2 conditions High answer condition and a Low answer condition. Independent design in that each participant is selected for only one group. Directional Hypothesis was selected on the basis of previous research, the level of conformity, whether it was significant, was to be established using the Mann-Whitney U test at a significance level of p=0.05.

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