‘Discuss the factors whichinfluence the extent to which a person will show conformity.’ Theaim of this essay is to critically assess features that influence a person to demonstrateand adapt to conformity. This will be executed by expanding on theories andstudies performed to conclude behaviour in different environments; including Jenness(1932), Solomon Asch (1951, 1955) and Sherif (1935).
Real life examples and storieswill also be included to deliver a knowledgeable essay on conformity and the triggeringfactors. Conformity is a method of socialinfluence concerning a variation in behaviour or belief in order to integratewithin a group of people. Conformity can also be identified as ‘yielding togroup pressures’ (Crutchfield 1995). A person may choose to conform to a decisionthat is highly favoured by the majority or what appears to correspond withbeing socially acceptable; also known as majority influence. The termconformity can often indicate a desire to fit in or be liked within socialinteraction. Individuals often conform as they lean on people for guidance;whether it be friends, family, associates etc. Situational dynamics have agreater impact on shaping decision making than behavioural factors becauseconformity is not necessarily an everyday occurrence whereas a person’scharacteristics are inbred within (Goldberg 1952). The value of conformity begins from childhood,this behaviour is essential for socialisation.
Generally; children conform tobe accepted and become part of a group; this gives a sense of belongingness andsecurity. Kelman (1958) proposes that there are three types of conformity;compliance; going along with the crowd, even if you feel differently within. Identification;fulfilling a role based on social expectations rather than private opinion, andlastly internalisation; adapting or considering views compared to personalpreference or intuition. The first psychologistto study conformity was Jenness (1932).
His experiment involved a glass bottleof beans and a group of people, they were firstly required to give their individualestimates of how many beans they thought were in the bottle. The participantswere then divided in to groups of three and were then asked to provideestimates by talking and discussing the number of beans in the jar. Following thegroup talk, individual estimates were again requested to compare if theiranswers had been influenced from the group talk; which in turn the vast majorityhad changed their minds. The results demonstrate the power conformity holds in anambiguous, group based setting.
The participants changed their decision on thebasis of believing the group estimate was more likely to be closer to the exactnumber of beans than their own presumption. Likewise, Sherif (1935) conducted an autokinetic effect experiment similarly requiring participants to provide answersin a group environment and individually, the results revealed the answers givenin a group were similar however the individual responses were greatlydifferent. Individualbehaviour and decision making can ultimately be shaped by the presence ofothers. There can be pros and cons to this attitude though, for example; workenvironment, team games and political activism display positive outcomes whereas,peer pressure and negative, unconstructive influences can lead to negative consequences. The reasons for peopleto join groups in the first place can also cause them to conform, for example;gain acceptance from group members, achieve aspirations other groups intend toreach. Social influence represents the habitsand techniques in which external factors can have an impact and change in an individual.It guides the way we behave and guides our way in thinking.
Compliance, obedienceand conformity are all concepts of social influence. It is evident in everydaylife, people adhere to unwritten social norms systemizing their lives byobeying guidelines provided by an authority figure. The changes that leadsocial influence can be instant or delayed, intended or unintended and explicitor implicit. Social norms are an expected way of behaving within culture orsociety, once a specific way of doing something has become established as anorm, people conform as it seems the right way to do things. Informationalsocial influence. Research and paradigms have shown that when a person is challenged,they will adapt their behaviour closer to what is expected in society (Asch1951).Solomon Asch (1951, 1955) organised a model on conformity focusing thesubject on the social influence theory.
The applicants in Asch’s experiment whereshown a standard line and three comparison lines, after listening to otherparticipants estimations, the applicants had to indicate which of the threelines best matched the initial diagram shown. A large number of the applicantsthat took part, displayed conformity as their answers were close if not thesame as the participants who purposely estimated incorrectly. This experiment demonstratesthat individuals put in a potentially uncomfortable position expresscompliance.Compliancespecifically concerning conformity signifies efforts directly made to change aperson’s behaviour in a specified way (Cialdini 2006, Sparrow, Soetjipto 2006). Cialdini (1994) implied that there are 6 values for gainingcompliance, the first being reciprocity, holding power over a person’s actionsbased on a previous favour or support.
Secondly, social validation; leaning onothers for guidance when uncertain. Another factor is commitment andconsistency; acting in accordance to a promise already vowed. Authority; aperson deemed with power is most likely to be adhered to and respected. Scarcityis the fifth value Cialdini suggested, indicating people appreciate rarity anddo not want to feel as though they are missing on a good opportunity.
Lastly; ifsomeone is fond of another person, they are more likely to settle or compromisefor the sake of that person, known as friendship/liking.Compliance generally does not alter aperson’s internal views, this is a temporary phase whilst their behaviour isunder observation. For example; a child asked to clean their bedroom may only submitto these instructions until they are no longer being watched. Compliance causesan individual who is driven by gain or reward to escape penalty, to succumb tosocial pressure whilst internally opposing. The request that the individual acceptsis either implicit; a form of advertising an item without asking them to buyit, or explicit; a verbal wish (Goldstein & Cialdini 2004).
Another common exampleof compliance is driving; drivers comply with the road traffic rules put inplace by the government authorities. Should road users not obey, not only wouldthere be complete disarray but drivers would face penalties or fines for such performance. Research has shown thatconformity can vary amid different cultures. Western cultures are categorised asindividualist; a liberated and independent society.
Whereas Asian and a numberof African cultures are seen as collectivistic. Dated views suggested women donot like to be in charge and would much rather take orders than assign them (Crutchfield1955), conversely more contemporary studies have displayed a smaller differencebetween both genders to conform (Eagly and Carli 1981).Obedience is a further factor that influences conformity. Obedience refers to aperson following exact instructions to avoid adverse consequences. Milgram (1963)constructed an experiment whereby the participants were ordered to administerelectrical shocks to students in another room whenever they made a mistake. Theresults attained from this test revealed how individuals fought against their intuitionor personal beliefs to obey commands from authority figures. Conformity is lesslikely to be accepted by the person complying as this is from externalinfluences, whereas, obedience is formed from a hierarchy structure.
Conformity is a complex issue and is affected by arange of factors, which in turn makes it very challenging to predict whichsituation, to what extent and what type of individual will conform to socialinfluences. Failing to conform is considered a strength in the Western society Kim and Markus (1999). Social influences arise indifferent environments where a minimum of one stimulus is current.
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