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According to Leon Mann, conformity means ‘yielding to group pressures’. Everyone is a member of one group or another and everyone expects members of these groups to behave in certain ways. If you are a member of an identifiable group you are expected to behave appropriately to it. If you don’t confirm and behave appropriately you are likely to be rejected by the group. Like stereotypes, conforming and expecting others to conform maintains cognitive balance. There are several kinds of conformity. Many studies of conformity took place in the 1950’s which led Kelman to distinguish between compliance, internalisation and identification. Compliance is the type of conformity where the subject goes along with the group view, but privately disagrees with it. Internalisation is where the subject comes to accept, and eventually believes in the group view. Identification is where the subject accepts and believes the group view, because he or she wants to become associated with the group. Leon Mann identifies normative conformity which occurs when direct group pressure forces the individual to yield under the threat of rejection or the promise of reward. This can occur only if someone wants to be a member of the group or the groups attitudes or behaviour are important to the individual in some way. Apart from normative conformity there is informational conformity which occurs where the situation is vague or ambiguous and because the person is uncertain he or she turns to others for evidence of the appropriate response. Thirdly, Mann identifies ingratiational conformity which occurs where a person tries to do whatever he or she thinks the others will approve in order to gain acceptance (if you make yourself appear to be similar to someone else, they might come to like you). The first major research into conformity was conducted in 1935 by Sherif who used a visual illusion, known as the auto-kinetic effect. Sherif told his subjects that a spot of light which they were about to see in a darkened room was going to move, and he wanted them to say the direction and distance of the movement. In the first experimental condition the subjects were tested individually. Some said the distance of movement wasn’t very far in any directio, others said it was several inches. Sherif recorded each subjects response. In the second experimental condition, Sherif gathered his subject... ... middle of paper ... ... and Willis give some criticisms of the early research into conformity. Firstly the studies do not identify the motive or type of conformity. Do the subjects conform in order to gain social approval? Are they simply complying? Do they really believe that their response is correct? Secondly Hollander and Willis claim that the experiments do not identify whether the subjects are complying because they judge that it’s not worth appearing to be different, or because the actually start to believe that the groups judgement is correct. Hollander and Willis also claim that the studies cannot show whether those who do not conform do so because they are independant thinkers or because they are anti-conformists. And Lastly, they claim that the studies seem to assume that independance has to be good and conformity has to be bad. However conformity is often benificial. Sherif and Asch have each conducted fairly artificial laboritory experiments which showed that about 30% of responses can be explained by the need or desire of the subjects to conform. These experiments may not accurately reflect real life when conformity might be benificial and sometimes contribute to psychological well-being.

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