Dependence, denial of dependence and group conformity
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This study is an examination of the relationship between differential modes of handling dependence and behavior in a group conformity situation. Alexander's work with ulcer patients led to a twofold formulation about dependence wherein dependency-acceptors were described as showing a passive orientation to life and Dependency-deniers were described as showing an extremely independent orientation. These concepts have been related to groups other than ulcer patients but some studies have not shown the expected differences between dependency groups. Investigations that have confirmed the existence of two groups used measures involving some elements of self description while studies that have not shown two groups used less clearly self descriptive measures or performance measures. Review of the literature led to the formulation that various groups of dependent persons perform differently according to the direction of their attention. When attention is directed toward self-assessment, two patterns of response to dependence appear with the groups behaving differently; when attention is directed toward a task without reference to self-description, only one pattern of response appears with both dependency groups reacting similarly. The results can also be described in terms of a distinction between performance and report-of-performance. The group conformity situation offered a carefully studied method for the manipulation of the social situation. It was felt that the concept of differential behavior by dependence groups due to the focus of attention explained some inconsistencies noted by other authors in their investigations of the relationship between dependence and conformity. The Navran Dependency Scale derived from the MMPI was used to classify subjects along a continuum of expression-of- dependence, ranging from dependency-denier (low score), through dependency-flexible, to dependency-acceptor (high score). The Crutchfield adaptation of the Asch conformity situation was used to measure the conformity variable. Stimuli were regular geometric figures and vocabulary words. In addition to measurement of the frequency of yielding reaction time of responses was also recorded. Subjects were also asked to estimate their performance in the conformity situation immediately following the session. It was hypothesized that both dependency-acceptors and dependency-deniers show higher amounts of yielding and longer reaction times than dependency-flexibles. The groups were expected to differ on recall of yielding behavior with dependency- deniers under-estimating group influence more than dependency acceptors. Subjects were ninety-nine male undergraduate college students. All were tested on the Navran Dependency Scale two weeks before conformity testing and were screened on their ability to judge the stimuli correctly. The hypotheses as stated were not supported. The relationship between dependence and conformity with the geometric stimuli showed that high dependence scores (dependency-acceptors) were significantly associated with high conformity scores (biserial r .31, p <.05). The correlation between dependence and conformity with vocabulary stimuli failed to show relationships exceeding chance levels of probability. The use of reaction time as a sensitive measure of the phenomena in the group conformity situation received support from the results observed here even though the specific hypotheses were not supported. Contrary to the hypothesis, dependency-acceptors were found to underestimate the influence of the group whereas dependency-deniers and dependency-flexibles were more accurate in their estimates (Pearson r .21, p < .05). This study supports the results of other research which shows greater amounts of conformity with more ambiguous stimuli. Refinement of stimulus presentation was proposed wherein subjects would see the responses of the "group members" before seeing the stimulus. This procedure would insure consideration of the group consensus by the subject prior to making his judgment and probably increase conformity.
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