The effects of insecurity, task ambiguity, and sex on conformity

Hunter, Kenneth Robert
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The present research investigated the effects of security-insecurity, sex, and stimulus ambiguity on conformity. It was hypothesized that, on clear stimuli, insecure males conform more than secure males, but that this difference is lost with decreasing stimulus clarity. In view of difficulties frequently encountered by researchers who attempt to predict conformity on the basis of personality for females, no differences were hypothesized for females. These specific hypotheses of difference and non-difference in conformity between particular secure and insecure groups suggested a particular pattern of triple interaction. Security-Insecurity was defined in terms of a theory based on interpersonal needs (N), perceived reciprocations of those needs (R), and discrepancy between need and reciprocation (D). N and R constitute the 2 dimensions of a plane termed the Security Space, on which any value of D can be plotted from its component N and R scores. Two theoretical continuua, defined in terms of N and R, are represented as dimensions within the Security Space: (1) insecure (N exceeds R) through balance (N equals R) to secure (R exceeds N); (2) repulsion balance (low N equals low R) through a moderate balance (moderate N equals moderate R) to attraction balance (high N equals high R). The 1=S Scale [a measure of need-reciprocation discrepancy (NRD)] was administered to approximately 800 introductory psychology students: 12 high and 12 low scorers for each sex were selected as Ss. These 48 Ss were tested for conformity in an Asch situation under 3 levels of stimulus ambiguity (ambiguous, moderately clear, and clear). A 2 x 2 x 3 design with repeated measures on the last factor was used. Insecure Ss conformed more than secure Ss, and all Ss conformed more on ambiguous than on clear tasks. The predicted pattern of triple interaction was approximated very closely. Secure and insecure males did not differ in conformity on ambiguous tasks, but a significant difference did emerge for clear tasks. The effect for females was not as clear: the pattern of differences between secure and insecure females over levels of ambiguity was less regular. Sex differences in relating personality variables to conformity have frequently been reported by other investigators. This problem of sex difference is related to the theory of NRD. It is suggested that identical personality scores for males and females might represent different personality constellations because different developmental histories are associated with the same extreme score for the two sexes. The possibility is suggested that when male and female groups with comparable NRD scores and comparable histories can be accurately identified, this problem of sex difference might be clarified.
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Hawaii, 1968.
Bibliography: leaves 62-67.
ix, 80 l graphs, tables
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