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mc cartyism

Asked by saj22heer08 | Sep 23, 2007 | AS Level > Sociology > Homework
saj22heer08 asks:

find out whaty is mc cartyism ans how it relates to asch's experiment?

etutor answers:

This is a question in Social Psychology and not Sociology. I happen to be familiar with Asch's experiments, though not with McCartyism. Did you really mean McCarthyism? If so, I cannot see any obvious connection with Asch's work, but I have included a short comment on McCarthyism just in case. Perhaps the issue is how truth can be distorted and perverted when powerful opponents of a cause (in this case, communism) gang up on the victims and present highly contentious allegations as self-evident truths, for political purposes. In other words, it reflects the power of 'the mob', with credibility established through sheer membership. It is the basis of Arthur Miller's 'Crucible' and, to some extent, Orwell's '1984'. Clearly Asch conducted his studies for scientific and not political purposes.

The Asch conformity experiments, published in 1953, were a series of studies that starkly demonstrated the power of conformity in groups. Pairs of cards (a 'vision test') were used in the experiments. In reality, all but one of the participants were assistants of the experimenter, and the study was really about how the remaining student would react to the assistants' behaviour. The participants - the real subject and the assistants - were all seated in a classroom where they were told to announce out loud their judgment of the length of several lines drawn on a series of displays. They were asked which line was longer than the other, which were the same length, etc. The assistants had been briefed to all give an incorrect answer to the tests.
While most subjects answered correctly, many showed extreme discomfort, and a high proportion (37%) conformed to the erroneous majority view of the others in the room when there were at least three assistants present, even when the majority said that two lines that were different in length by several inches were the same length. When the assistants were not unanimous in their judgment, subjects were much more likely to defect than when the assistants all agreed. Control subjects with no exposure to a majority view had no trouble giving the correct answer.

One difference between the Asch conformity experiments and that carried out by Stanley Milgram is that the subjects of these studies attributed their performance to their own misjudgment and "poor eyesight", while those in the Milgram experiment blamed the experimenter in explaining their behaviour. Hence conformity may be much less salient than authority pressure.

A number of critiques have been advanced against Asch's experiment, including a question of the motivation of students to be accurate. Rather than testing conformity, Asch's study may have simply measured an uninterested student's reluctance to engage in conflict to get the answer right. Moreover, in Asch's experiments the subjects were not allowed to interact with the assistants. When the experiment was conducted in which even one assistant was allowed to give the correct answer, the number of confirming responses dropped significantly. This is consistent with Milgram's later findings of the effect of "role models for defiance" in his classic Obedience Experiment.

Interestingly, a 2005 study using functional M.R.I. scanners showed that social conformity engages regions of the brain devoted to spatial awareness. In other words, experimental subjects who gave in to group pressure actually saw things that way. Conformity was due to a change in perception rather than conscious judgment.

McCarthyism is the term describing a period of intense anti-communist suspicion in the USA that lasted from the late 1940s to the late 1950s. This period coincided with increased fears about communist influence on American institutions and espionage by Soviet agents. Originally coined to criticize the actions of Senator Joseph McCarthy, "McCarthyism" later took on a more general meaning..

During this time many thousands of Americans were accused of being Communists or communist sympathisers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before government or private-industry panels, committees and agencies. The primary targets of such suspicions were government employees, those in the entertainment industry, educators and union activists. Suspicions were often given credence despite inconclusive or questionable evidence, and the level of threat posed by a person's real or supposed left wing associations or beliefs was often greatly exaggerated. Many suffered loss of employment, destruction of their careers, and even imprisonment. Most of these punishments came about through trial verdicts that were later overturned, and laws that were eventually declared unconstitutional.

I hope this is helpful.

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