Social conformity refers to the tendency of people to change their behaviors when they are around other people (Myers, 2001). People from all cultures like to be appreciated and included into social settings and gatherings. Conformity affects all people regardless of gender, race or nationality (Myers, 2001). Conformity happens because people in all societies people fear punishment and getting alienated socially. Among all people, there is a lot of psychological trauma in getting socially sidelined by a group to which one wants to belong. The social Identity Theory stresses on people creating In-groups (us) versus out-groups (them). People in all cultures create “Us” (in-group) Vs “Them” (out-group) mentalities are evaluated in terms of whether they are inferior or superior to other in-groups (Cullis, Dolan, & Groves, 1999). People belonging to a superior in-group experience positive self-esteem while those belonging to inferior in-groups experience negative self-esteem (Myers, 2001). Since there is universal need for positive self-esteem, people try to belong to superior groups. People who find themselves in inferior groups try to make fellow members distinctly positive sometimes through intergroup discrimination (Myers, 2001). All people like to be associated with beauty, success, good mannerisms among other positive attributes. Although aspects of what defines beauty or success vary from one culture to another, people always try to associate themselves with a beautiful or successful person. Many a times, one culture’s ideas of beauty are, on the whole, the same as any other’s (Cunningham, et al, 1995).For instance, Female physical attractiveness has very many commonalities in different cultures. Since there is ample evidence of people in varying cultures conforming to the Social Identity Theory then it follows that this psychology theory proves that psychology theories are largely universal in individualist and collective cultures.
Asch experiment (1952) carried out a visual discrimination experiment in which he asked 50 male students from an American university to look at fixed lines and call out publicly which three comparison lines were the same as a standard line. Only one person gave a true answer and he provided his answer as the second last in the group. All the other students had influenced each other. Several studies both from Eastern and Western countries have obtained results similar to the Asch Experiment. These studies show that conformity is universal across cultures. The level of conformity among Brazilian, Lebanese and Hong Kong students was found to be similar to that obtained in Asch’s experiment. Claeys (1967) also found out that the level of conformity among a group of students in Zaire (Africa) currently Democratic Republic of Congo was comparable to that of a sample American study. The replications of the Asch experiment have also been confirmed by studies done in Kuwait (Amir, 1984), France (Askevis-Leherpeux & Zaleska, 1974), Brazil (Rodrigues, 1982) and Portugal (Neto, 1995). In the above studies, the anticipated changes did not emerge. For example, Zairean students were expected to conform more because people in that society have a high level of conformity. The studies found out that there was no need for back translation of the studies to enable it to be used in different other places. The results of the studies replicated themselves among cultures in different continents where levels of conformity were presumed to vary very significantly. All these studies prove that conformity is universal across culture whether they are collective or individualistic.
Individualistic societies, such as the United Kingdom and the United States have always emphasised on the desirability of individuals being responsible for their own well-being and having a sense of personality identity. In contrast, collectivistic cultures (e.g. china) used to emphasise the priority of group needs over individual ones, and value the feeling of group identity (Eysenck, 2003). However, China and other Eastern countries have rapidly absorbed capitalism and have interacted massively with people from the Western world which has reduced their collectivistic tendencies (Eysenck, 2003). As such, the levels of conformity have gradually come to almost equal levels. Africans who also had massive tendencies towards collectivism have also adopted Western lifestyles in their social lives (dressing, choice of entertainment, sports and foods among many other social and cultural issues). Their economies and educational curriculums are also based on western lifestyles and all this points to massive conformity. This evidence therefore proves that conformity has spread equally to all parts of the world and the fact that conformity is now universal also means that psychology theories are also universal.
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