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University of Toronto Scarborough

Conformity in Individualistic Cultures  Canada is an individualistic society, and therefore conformity suggests something negative  yet Canadians often pride themselves on being agreeable and getting along with others  there is a difference between conformity and compliance (social behaviour by an individual that may be contrary to his/her beliefs but is exhibited nonetheless in order to achieve rewards and avoid punishment)  on the outside, compliance resembles conformity (ex: students follow attendance rules even when they would rather skip class)  in all forms, conformity is a social process that allows people to organize and function effectively in society  conformity allows groups to establish boundaries—members of social groups such as families, peers and even countries are able to distinguish themselves  conformity to certain beliefs of a group clarifies acceptable and unacceptable behaviours for their members (ex: students are expected to conform to the school’s rules) Conformity in Collectivistic Cultures  conformity has various different meanings in collectivistic cultures—conformity takes precedence over individuality  actions, language, and dress are all determined by society; not meeting the group’s expectations have more serious consequences than in individualistic cultures  in Japan, conformity is vitally important—Japan is surrounded by oceans on all sides, which limits living space, forcing Japanese people to live in close proximity to one another  Japanese have had to relinquish some claims for personal space and rely on predictable behaviour (due to conformity) to maintain social harmony and order  Japan is changing, allowing for more individuals to express their identity Breaking Social Norms: The Breaching Experiments  Harold Garfinkel was interested in understanding what would happen if people purposely broke the rules/norms of a group; he would then analyze people’s reactions to the breach  the focus of the experiment was having people break the unwritten rules of society (ex: walking backwards up a flight of stairs, standing up while eating in a restaurant)  Garfinkel’s experiments showed society resists breaches in social order and quickly attempts to reconstruct order when a social norm has been broken  ex: in society, you typically stand on right side of escalator and allow for people in a rush to be on the left side—if someone stood on the left side, this would be a breach in the unwritten rules of society  these experiments who how people take for granted the unwritten social norms and come to expect that certain things will always function in a specific way Stanley Milg
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