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Explain the Arguments For and Against Conformity.

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Kanak Shah Psychology AS/a Suzan Mayhew Explain the Arguments For and Against Conformity (18) Conformity can be defined as yielding publicity to group pressure, and sometimes yielding privately as well. Most of the research on conformity has been North American and has focused on the way majority pressure can control and distort the judgement of the individual. American researchers are more likely to have seen conformity in a negative light, as a threat to individual liberty. This view has been seen as a reflection of American culture which emphasises (at least after the McCarty era of the early 1950s) individual freedom. McCarthy 'witch hunters' were out to hunt communist sympathisers. 'Subversives' who failed to conform to the American way had to face the house of un-American activities, when thousands of people lost their jobs and were imprisoned. So, did the experiment of Soloman Asch only reflect 1950's America? ...read more.


The level of conformity was exceptionally high. Asch's line-matching experiment is shown in many textbooks as an example of minority influence. Yet only 37% of the judgements made by the participants were incorrect. In other words, in 63% of their judgements they were not swayed by the influence of the majority. Thus emphasis can be seen as a reflection of the values that Americans put on individuality and independence. By focusing on the minority of incorrect judgements, they see the Asch experiment as a warning of the threat of majority influence to individual freedom. The preoccupation with majority influence may help to explain why it was European psychologists, particularly Moscovici, who developed the study into minority influence. It has been debated that conformity is viewed in a more positive light in Europe where it is more likely to be seen as the result of negotiation rather than the burden of majority opinions. ...read more.


This results in confusion and disorder. On the other hand, conformity can be seen as harmful, producing 'blind' obedience and herd-like behaviour. Nonconformity can be explained in terms of displaying reactance; reacting against attempts to restrict personal choice. Nonconformity can be seen as good or bad depending on the situation. A certain level of nonconformity can be seen as beneficial to society. If conformity were total, society would fester - there would be no change, improvement, new ideas or creativity. There would be no advances in technology or science. Nonconformity has also been seen as positive in order to resist cruel or evil behaviour, for example opposing Hitler's dictatorship during the Nazi regime. However, breaking social norms can be dangerous. For example, by breaking the Highway Code, one can endanger life and limb. I feel that the arguments for and against conformity have been explained well and that conformity can be seen as good and bad. It is usually but not always a desirable social influence. ...read more.

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