Impact of Social Pressure on Individual Conformity Research Proposal

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¶ … Social Pressure on Social Conformity

Even before the conclusion of the Nuremberg Trials a decade and a half after the end of World War II, psychologists began studying the concept of moral responsibility in relation to obedience to help shed understanding into the Nazi atrocities committed during the war years. What had seemed so incomprehensible about the network of more than one thousand concentration camps in which approximately 10 million civilians (more than half of them European Jews from Germany and Nazi-occupied territories) perished was the apparent contradiction between the characteristics thought necessary for cold blooded killers and the sheer ordinariness of the German people (Baron & Byrne, 1993; Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2008; Myers & Spencer, 2004). It was shocking even beyond the magnitude of the horrors committed against innocent civilians precisely because those responsible were among the most educated, sophisticated, and advanced nations in the world rather than primitive barbarians.Get full Download Microsoft Word File access
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Research Proposal on Impact of Social Pressure on Individual Conformity Assignment

The first series of experiments designed to understand elements of obedience focused on the manner in which group consensus can change the ability of the individual to maintain and objective perspective. In Solomon Asch's now-famous experiments conducted in the early 1950s, experimental subjects changed their answers to matters of simple visual perception when faced with the supposed alternate perceptions expressed by others (Baron & Byrne, 1993; Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2008; Myers & Spencer, 2004). A few years later, in 1961, Stanley Milgram conducted experiments into the mechanism of displaced responsibility and the capacity of ordinary individuals to violate their own moral consciences under apparent the authority of others (Baron & Byrne, 1993; Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2008; Myers & Spencer, 2004). Then, in 1971, Stanford University psychology professor Phillip Zimbardo conducted his famous Stanford Prison Experiment in which subjects playing the role of prison guards became so abusive and subjects playing the role of prisoners became so distressed, that the experiment had to be called off after six days, less than half its designed duration (Baron & Byrne, 1993; Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2008; Myers & Spencer, 2004).

More recently, Zimbardo testified before Congress in connection with the prisoner abuses perpetrated by members of the United States Armed Forces at the Abu Ghraib Detention Facility in Iraq. According to Zimbardo, in many respects, the real-world events at issue in that case paralleled the results of his controversial Stanford Prison Experiment conducted in a makeshift prison in the basement of the Stanford University Psychology building more than three decades earlier (Zimbardo, 2007).

Statement of the Problem

Both the Nazi atrocities and the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses involved female as well as male perpetrators. This research project proposes to study the degree to which females are differentially susceptible to the influence of male-dominated environmental pressure to conform to group perceptions, expectations, norms, values, and behavior.

Research Questions

Major Research Question

Are females more susceptible than males to the influence of male-dominated group consensus?

Specific Research Questions

1. Are females more susceptible to group influence than males?

2. Are females more susceptible to male-dominated group influence than to non-male-dominated group influence?

3. Are females differentially susceptible to group influence based on their perceptions about gender equality?

Purpose and Significance of Study

The issues of distorted perception, displacement of moral responsibility, obedience to authority, and group conformity have tremendous contemporary relevance in addition to their importance in the history of experimental psychology into those concepts. Even beyond the circumstances involving a gender-integrated contemporary military, the integration of women into the modern vocational environment raises very similar questions about gender and the influence of group consensus on the individual.

Recent corporate fiascos such as the collapse of Enron and Tyco exhibited fundamental lapses in moral conduct of highly-skilled but otherwise ordinary businessmen and women motivated largely by group think and the coercive effects of dysfunctional, controlling, manipulative, and punitive organizational cultures (Tourish, 2005). More recently, throughout much of the first decade of the 21st century, deliberate malfeasance and tacit acceptance of financially unsound, unethical, and dishonest business practices throughout the mortgage and loan industry precipitated the 2007 collapse of the U.S. housing market and, in turn, triggered the current economic recession.

Generally, the mortgage banking and real estate industries are male-dominated fields in which substantial numbers of females work as mortgage brokers and real estate broker. Both categories of professionals had first-hand knowledge of and direct involvement in the duplicitous and irresponsible practices that came to characterize those industries in the last decade. The purpose of this study is to provide better understanding of the effect of group influence on females in contemporary situations, particularly in the area of vocational ethics with respect to any differences between the genders in relation to that issue.

Definitions

Cohorts -- Individuals believed by the experimental subjects to be fellow subjects who are in reality playing roles assigned by the experimenter.

Group Consensus -- the apparent agreement of other members within a group.

Influence -- Apparent changes in the perception of the individual.

Male-dominated -- Environments where either:

1. Hierarchical authority is primarily male; or

2. Males significantly outnumber females.

Well-integrated -- Not primarily male environments.

Assumptions

1. Female subjects will be more susceptible to the influence of group consensus in male-dominated environments than in non-male-dominated environments.

2. Female subjects will be more susceptible to the influence of group consensus than males.

3. Female subjects who are already as comfortable asserting themselves as males and who generally maintain and project that perspective will be less susceptible to the influence of group consensus than females who are less comfortable asserting themselves and who generally maintain and project that perspective.

Delimitations

This study includes only subjects selected from professional environments in the investment banking, professional sports management, advertising, and fashion industries. Those fields were selected because they represent industries that are well-integrated and male-oriented; not well integrated and male oriented; well-integrated and not male-dominated; and well-integrated and female dominated, respectively.

Literature Review

In his landmark 1955 study detailed in "Opinions and social pressure" that was originally published in Scientific American, Solomon Asch demonstrated that subjects changed their answers to questions whose answers were obvious to them because of the influence of a group of cohorts who pretended to maintain a consensus opinion that the experimental subjects actually knew was incorrect. In that series of experiments, Asch presented the subjects with drawings depicting lines of different lengths and asked the subject to identify which lines were longer or shorter relative to the others. Many subjects changed their answers and conformed to the group's obviously incorrect consensus

(Baron & Byrne, 1993; Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2008; Myers & Spencer, 2004).

In his 1961 study detailed in "Behavioral Study of Obedience" that was originally published in the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, psychologist Stanley

Milgram demonstrated that subjects could be induced into inflicting what they believed were painful and potentially lethal electric shocks to cohorts the subjects believed were fellow test subjects in a memory and learning study. The experiment demonstrated the relative ease with which ordinary individuals could suspend their moral consciences by disclaiming personal responsibility where an apparent authority figure ordered them to continue shocking the supposed test subject cohorts (Baron & Byrne, 1993; Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2008; Myers & Spencer, 2004).

In his 2007 book, the Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil,

psychologist Phillip Zimbardo recounted the results of his 1971 Stanford Prison

Experiment specifically in connection with the prisoner abuse perpetrated at the Abu

Ghraib Detention in Iraq after Operation Iraqi Freedom launched in 2003. Dr. Zimbardo

detailed the similarities and the psychological principles and phenomena common to the real-world abuses and his 1971 experiment (Zimbardo, 2007).

Dennis Tourish, a Communications professor at Aberdeen Business School in the Robert Gordon University in Britain, examined the corporate culture an Enron in connection with the collapse of that company in 2001 amidst corporate excess in the form of widespread scandal and fraudulent bookkeeping. More specifically, Dr. Tourish

detailed the manner in which charismatic leadership style, group think, inculcation with organizational values, and obedience caused many intelligent professionals to participate in a highly dysfunctional, unethical, and illegal enterprise (Tourish, 2005).

Methodology

The proposed study involves the use of a sham vocational training program in "Professional Development and Leadership Training Seminar." Specifically, the subjects will be placed in a situation in which all of the other participants in the sham seminar are cohorts of the experimenter. The subjects will be required to make judgments, determinations, and decisions that they believe are contrary to the perceptions, opinions, and desires of the cohorts in various situations.

Sample Description

The subjects will be exposed to various situations in which their fellow group members are either primarily male; primarily female; apparently led by dominant males; or apparently led by dominant females.

Procedures

Generally, the experimental subjects will participate in a week-long vocational development seminar. The initial phase will emphasize group bonding exercises within the context of a professional development curriculum. During this phase, subjects will also furnish their opinions of the role of women in… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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