Sociocultural Level of Analysis: Social and Cultural Norms


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Notes for section 4.2 of my IB HL Psychology textbook. All about the Sociocultural Level of Analysis, conformity, persuasion, norms, and the like.

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Sociocultural Level of Analysis: Social and Cultural Norms

  1. 1. Sociocultural Level of Analysis Social and Cultural Norms
  2. 2. Norms • Norm: a set of rules based on socially or culturally shared beliefs of how an individual ought to behave – Norms regulate the behavior within a group • When individuals deviate from norms, they may be punished, marginalized, stigmatized – However: Could also be seen as creative, a leader, and affecting change! • Because humans are social animals, our need to belong causes the desire to conform to group norms
  3. 3. Social Learning Theory • Albert Bandura • Humans learn behavior through observational learning – People can learn by watching and imitating behavior • Factors of Social Learning Theory: – Attention: Person must pay attention to the model – Retention: Observer must be able to remember the behavior being observed – Motor reproduction: Observer must be able to replicate the action – Motivation: Learners must want to demonstrate what they have learned
  4. 4. Motivation • Several factors can influence whether or not the observer decides to imitate/learn: – Consistency: if the model is always brave – Identification: if the model is like ourselves – Rewards/punishment: We see the consequences of actions without having to carry them out (vicarious reinforcement) – Liking: if the model is warm and friendly we’re more likely to learn behavior (Yarrow et al. 1970)
  5. 5. Bandura et al. (1961) • Aim: – See if children would imitate aggression modeled by an adult – See if children were more likely to imitate same-sex models • Method: – Boys and girls from 3-6 y/o – One group shown adult who modeled aggression with a “Bobo” doll – One group shown adult who was non-aggressive – One group served as the control
  6. 6. Bandura et al. (1961) • Results: – Those shown the aggressive adult were significantly more aggressive (physically and verbally) – Children showed signs of observational learning – More likely to imitate same-sex adult • Girls were more likely to imitate verbal aggression • Boys more likely to imitate physical aggression • Evaluation: – Low ecological validity – Does little to predict repeated exposure to aggression – Aggression of adults was not standardized – Children may have been affected by demand characteristics – Ethics of showing and teaching violence to children!
  7. 7. Application of Social Learning Theory • There is a chance that violence on television will lead to more violent children – Results of studies on effects of TV violence are consistent • TV aggression: – Kids learn how to be aggressive in new ways – Draw conclusions on whether or not aggression will bring them rewards or punishment • Huesmann and Eron (1986): Longitudinal study found a positive correlation between hours of violence watched on TV as a child and aggression demonstrated as a teenager – Those who watched a lot at 8 y/o  more likely to be arrested
  8. 8. TV Violence • Other considerations: – Could there be another explanation to the correlation between TV shows and aggression? – Maybe children who watched violence on TV also lived in families which facilitated violent behavior? • Positive TV Influence: – Sesame Street can help children learn positive behaviors – Bandura’s “Let’s Go with the Times” in Tanzania led to increase in safe sex, women’s status, and family planning
  9. 9. Evaluation of Social Learning Theory • Helps explain why behaviors may be passed down in a family or within a culture – How children acquire behaviors without trial-and-error learning • Difficult to establish the connection 100% – Child may learn something from a model and not exhibit that behavior for some time • Some people still never learn a behavior! • This theory has evolved into social cognitive theory and self-efficacy theory – Focus is on beliefs and influence on behavior
  10. 10. Social Influence: Compliance • Conformity: Occurs when the situation does not exert direct pressure to follow the majority, but individuals perceive pressure and it influences their behavior • Compliance: The result of direct pressure to respond to a request, even though the direct pressure may not be apparent to the individual – i.e. buying certain products
  11. 11. Compliance Techniques • Robert Cialdini and psychology of persuasion – Ways in which individuals are influenced to comply with the demands/desires of others • Six factors that influence compliance: – Authority: Using famous people in adverts – Commitment: Have people agree to one thing so later on they will comply with similar requests – Liking: They’ll listen to people they like! – Reciprocity: Feel they need to “return a favor” – Scarcity: Limited Time offer/less readily available – Social Proof: See others doing it
  12. 12. Reciprocity • Compliance technique outlined previously • Reciprocity Principle: Social norm that we should treat others the way they treat us – Person must try to repay what another has provided • Reciprocity is one of the most widespread and basic norms of human culture • What is given to another is not lost, but rather a sign of future obligation – Enables the development of various relationships and exchanges
  13. 13. Reciprocity • Feelings of guilt play a key role in reciprocity • Lynn and McCall (1998): Customers given a mint or treat with bill leave higher tips • Reciprocity can also be caused by the feeling that because the other person has already compromised, this compromise should be acknowledged with some behavior
  14. 14. Door-in-the-Face Technique • A request is made which will surely be turned down • Second request is made which asks for less • People are more likely to accept this second request because they feel the person has already lowered the request to accommodate them
  15. 15. Cialdini et al. (1975) • Demonstrates Door-in-the-face Technique • University students asked to chaperone juvenile delinquents on a zoo day-trip – 83% refused • Asked to work 2 hours per week as a counselor for 2+ years – 100% refused • Asked this second group to chaperone the zoo trip after this extreme request – Only 50% refused!
  16. 16. Commitment • Commitment: Being consistent with previous behavior • Once people make a choice or take a stand, they will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment • Goal gradients: Longer a person commits themselves to something, less likely they are to abandon the goal
  17. 17. Foot-in-the-Door Technique • Get a person to commit to something small • Persuade them to agree to something larger • Dickerson et al. (1992) – University students asked to sign a poster about taking shorter showers – Measured shower times were significantly shorter than normal shower times of the university • Could be that the people signed the poster because they already showered quickly beforehand!
  18. 18. Low-Balling • Cialdini et al. (1974) • Asked college students interested in psychology to meet up – One group was told up front it would meet at 7AM • Only 24% were willing – Other group not told time • 56% were willing – When later told it was at 7AM no one backed out (even when given the option) – 95% showed up as promised!
  19. 19. Hazing • Shows power of compliance techniques • Hazing: Series of initiation rites in order to join an exclusive group – Potentially dangerous and humiliating – Still used in African societies for passage into manhood and military boot camp training! • Individual must choose to join the group, knowing hazing initiation will be necessary • Must rationalize “this is worth it” • Gives a sense of accomplishment; proven loyalty
  20. 20. Aronson and Mills (1959) • Two groups of female college students – First group had to go through a severely embarrassing initiation – Second group did not • Both placed in a boring/uninteresting meeting • Those who had been hazed (Group 1) found the meeting “extremely valuable” • Those who had not been hazed (Group 2) found it “worthless and uninteresting”
  21. 21. Social Influence: Conformity • Conformity: Tendency to adjust one’s thoughts, feelings, or behavior in ways that are in agreement with those of a particular individual or group, or with expectations (social norms) – An indirect form of social influence that passes down society’s values and behaviors – i.e. “Peer pressure”
  22. 22. Asch (1951) Line Test • Conforming to an incorrect answer on a test if the response from the other group members was unanimous – See if confederates could influence the participant’s answers when visually comparing lines – Even when their answers were obviously incorrect • 75% agreed with incorrect confederates at least once • 32% agreed with incorrect confederates in at least half of the trials
  23. 23. Asch (1951) Line Test • Participants reported feeling self-doubt • Conformers knew their responses were incorrect, but went along with it anyway • Why? – Didn’t want to ruin the results – The human need to belong! • The desire to be part of the group > desire to give the correct answer • Known as Asch paradigm
  24. 24. Asch Paradigm • Asch’s study has been repeated with different factors • Group Size: (Asch 1955) More likely to conform in groups with 3 confederates than with 1 or 2. – Groups larger than this did not increase the rate of conformity • Unanimity: (Asch 1956) Conformity was most likely when all confederates agreed • Confidence: (Perrin and Spencer 1988) Individuals who felt more competent to make a decision in that field of expertise are less likely to conform • Self-esteem: (Stang 1973) High self-esteem = less likely to conform with incorrect responses
  25. 25. Asch Paradigm • Question of artificiality and ecological validity – Accurate representation of real life situations? • Demand characteristics – Participants may act in a way that they feel is required by the experiment • Culture could also limit the validity of the study (not multicultural!) • Ethical considerations – Use of deception – Felt anxiety about their performance • Friend et al. (1990) would rather figure out why some people didn’t conform than why some did
  26. 26. Asch Paradigm: Minorities • Moscovici argues: When a minority maintains a consistent view, it is able to influence the majority • Moscovici and Lage (1976) • 4 participants and 2 confederates – Confederates describe a blue-green color as green – Able to influence 32% of participants at least once to give the wrong answer • Participants continued to give incorrect responses even after the confederates left!
  27. 27. Minority Opinions • How can minorities influence majorities? • Hogg and Vaughan (1995)’s reasons: – Dissenting opinions produce uncertainty and doubt – Such opinions show alternatives exist – Consistency shows there is a commitment to the alternative view • i.e. the Civil Right’s Movement!
  28. 28. Groupthink • Groupthink: Group members having a unanimous opinion on an issue, and they do not seek out alternative or dissenting opinions – Described by Irving Janis – Why minority opinions are important! • When someone suggests an idea and everyone accepts it without considering other options – Group is often blinded by optimism and is certain they will be successful – Individuals doubt their own self-reservations and refrain from voicing dissenting opinions
  29. 29. Why do people conform? • Deutsch and Gerard (1955): • Conformity is a result of informational social influence and normative social influence
  30. 30. Informational Social Influence • Based on the way people cognitively process information/social comparison • When we see others behaving differently than ourselves it causes cognitive dissonance – Anxiety when you realize you don’t conform • Response 1: Conform (or at least try to) • Response 2: Rationalize and accept your own opinion
  31. 31. Normative Social Influence • Based on our nature as social animals – People have a need to be accepted and belong • May conform to avoid rejection and to gain social approval • If a dissenting opinion stands in the way of having friends, the need to belong to that group and have their friendship is more important
  32. 32. Cultural Aspects of Conformity • Asians value and partake in conformity more than Americans do • Americans often see conformity as negative – Even though its still a big part of being an American! • Don’t slice the world into East versus West • Italians also have high levels of conformity • (Burgos and Dias-Perez 1986) Puerto Ricans like their children to conform and be obedient
  33. 33. Smith and Bond (1993) • Review of 31 conformity studies • Average level of conformity is 31.2% • Conformity was lower among individualist cultures – i.e. North America, north-west Europe • Than from collectivist cultures – i.e. Africa, Asia, Oceania, South America
  34. 34. Berry (1967) • Conformity of Temne people of Sierra Leone vs. Inuit people of Canada – Temne conformed significantly more • Can be explained by their economic practices – Temne have to survive on a single crop harvested by the entire community • Requires cooperation, coordination of effort, consensus, agreement – Inuit economy is based on hunting and gathering on an individual level
  35. 35. Cultural Norms • Culture: Complex concept that is used in many different ways – Food, clothing, rituals, communication, religion, st atus, behaviors and habits • “Surface Culture”: what is easily visible/apparent • “Deep Culture”: related to beliefs/attitudes/values that underpin cultural manifestations
  36. 36. Cultural Norms • Kuschel claims culture should not be used as an explanation of behavior – It’ll just lead to circular arguments • Descriptions of cultural factors can be used to: – Understand how people have survived in the environment – How they have organized life into social groups – What beliefs, attitudes, norms etc influence behavior
  37. 37. Definitions of Culture • Lonner (1995): Common rules that regulate interactions and behavior within a group, and a number of shared values and attitudes in the group • Hofstede (2002): “Mental software”: cultural schemas that have been internalized so that they influence thinking, emotions, and behavior
  38. 38. The Role of Culture • Understanding the role of culture is essential in a diverse, multicultural world! • Etic Approach: Cross-cultural psychology where behavior is compared across specific cultures – Drawing on notion of universal properties of cultures • Emic Approach: Looks at behaviors that are culturally specific – Challenged psychologists to re-examine their ideas of “truth” with regard to culture
  39. 39. Matsumoto (2004) • Defined culture as a dynamic system of rules (explicit and implicit) established by groups in order to ensure their survival, involving attitudes, beliefs, norms, and behaviors • Dynamic because it changes over times and exists on many levels
  40. 40. Cultural Norms • Cultural Norms: Behavior patterns that are typical of specific groups • Often passed down from generation to generation by observational learning by the group’s gatekeepers – Gatekeepers: parents, teachers, leaders, peers • Cultural norms include: – How marriage partners are chosen – Attitudes toward alcohol – Acceptance/rejection of physical punishment
  41. 41. Cultural Dimensions of Behavior • Dimensions: Perspectives of a culture based on values and cultural norms • Understanding these dimensions will help facilitate communication between cultures • Dimensions: – Individualism vs. collectivism – Uncertainty vs. avoidance
  42. 42. Individualism vs. Collectivism • Individualist societies: Ties between individuals are loose; people look after themselves and immediate family • Collectivist societies: People are integrated from the beginning into strong in-groups (like extended families) that provide support and protection
  43. 43. Uncertainty vs. Avoidance • Deals with a society’s tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity • To what extent does a culture program its members to feel either uncomfortable or comfortable in unstructured situations? • Avoidant cultures construct laws, rules, safety measures, beliefs about absolute truths to remove chances of ambiguities/surprises
  44. 44. Confucian Work Dynamism • Bond (1988) argues Chinese culture replaces the uncertainty vs. avoidance dimension with Confucian work dynamism – Doesn’t focus on truth; focuses on virtue
  45. 45. Orientation • Long-Term Orientation: China & other Asian cultures value loyalty, persistence, trustworthiness – Relationships are based on status – They have a need to “save face” and respect tradition • Short-Term Orientation: Value personal steadiness and stability – Focus on the future instead of the past – Innovation is highly valued
  46. 46. Ecological Fallacy • Hoefstede warns against the ecological fallacy • When one looks at two different cultures, it should not be assumed that members from different cultures must be different – A single member of a culture will not always demonstrate dimensions that are the norms of that culture • These are just generalizations that allow discussions on the role of culture
  47. 47. Edward T. Hall (1966) • Proxemic Theory: Culture’s need for “personal space” – Different cultures have different perceptions of comfortable personal space distances • Time Consciousness: – Monochronic cultures focus on 1 thing at a time • High degree of scheduling, punctuality, deadlines – Polychronic cultures have many things happening at once • Focus more on relationships, interactions, interruptions are expected, little frustration over tardiness/postponing