Since I came from a county that is currently engaged in a civil war, I used to relate what we learned in class to my experience and what’s going on today in the rest of the world. I tried to understand people’s reactions including my own. The study of conformity by Asch made me think back to why some Syrian students, including myself could not accept the first act of people showing up on roads and rebelling against the Syrian government in 2011. Back in Syria, students in high school would have classes on politics throughout their four years. During the first year, freshmen would meet with upperclassmen in the political class and discuss the accomplishments of the Syrian government. A teacher would lead the conversation and let upperclassmen speak while freshmen were observing. Freshmen were only allowed to listen but not engage in the conversation until their sophomore year. By the beginning of my sophomore year, I noticed how I would always start my conversation by appreciating our government and its laws and then discussing how we should support our country to make it better. Also, none of the students in this class criticised the government but tried to come up with ideas that would support the government. Freshmen who used to observe in this class used to learn and listen about how all of the students appreciate the government and never criticize any of the laws, therefore, in the following years, they also talked about the positive role of the government in their lives and how people should support it. I think one reason for this is because of conformity, a psychological term defines an individual behavioral that is constricted to the particular group. The reason why students didn’t understand the rebellion was due to the conformity that resulted from freshmen learning from the upperclassmen. If people, including students, tried to understand and listen to the rebels in the beginning, they could have solved the conflict without escalating it.
In 2011, when a group of people rebelled against the government, I think many people, especially students could not accept or understand what the rebels were asking for because they grew up within a system that only spoke positively about the government. In psychology, the definition of ingroup is “people with whom we share a common identity” and the outgroup are “those perceived as different different or apart from our ingroup” (Meyer, Psychology). Students represented the ingroup and the rebels were the outgroup. Therefore, Syrian students could not accept the ideas that were coming from the rebels because the rebels’ ideas contradicted what students were taught. In other words, it’s because of the ingroup bias, which is “the tendency to favor our own group” (543). In other words, they could not accept the ideas that were coming from the outgroup because it contradicted with their ideas. Therefore, students called those who rebelled against the government traitors. In other words, the Asch study about conformity explains one of the reasons why students responded aggressively and did not listen to citizens who rebelled in the roads.
After I learned Leon Festinger’s study about cognitive dissonance, which is “ the act to reduce the discomfort (dissonance) we feel when two of our thoughts (cognitions) are inconsistent. For example, when we become aware that our attitudes and our actions clash, we can reduce the resulting dissonance by changing our attitudes” (523). I related the theory of cognitive dissonance to some of the challenges that immigrants including myself experience, by changing our thoughts about our native countries and sharing our perspectives about our native country to the new community. In my first day at school in the US, lots of students at my high school started asking me about what’s going on in Syria and whether the president is actually a dictator and killing his citizens. Since I knew that I was living in a country that doesn’t support the Syrian regime, I used to reply by saying, “yeah” even though I knew that it wasn’t only the government that was shooting the citizens, but also the rebels and ISIS. Later on, I started feeling that I was actually not sharing the truth about what was going on in Syria with my friends. After a couple of years, I noticed myself believing that the government was actually the only side in the civil war that was killing people. The study of cognitive dissonance clearly described the change of my view since my action contradicted with my original belief. I’ve met lots of Syrian immigrants who experienced the same thing by saying that it’s only the government’s fault of what’s happening today in Syria even though they know that is not true. I believe lots of immigrants experience cognitive dissonance which affects their personality and the perspective of their new community by not revealing the truth about what’s going on in their countries or the rest of the world.
Conformity to a group and cognitive dissonance have been affecting our attitudes and interactions towards others. I believe that might have influenced to start the civil war in Syria and in other countries in the Middle East. It made people from the ingroup misunderstand the rebels who represented the outgroup. The class of psychology is not well introduced in schools outside of the US, especially in the Middle East. People should learn how their thoughts and attitudes may be changed because of their interaction with the other people from the ingroup. If people from the ingroup realized that they had conformed to their group, they might have been more understanding towards the outgroup view.
Meyer, David. Psychology . 11th ed., Worth Publishers, 2015.