Reading, reading, reading

For the past few weeks I’ve been hitting the books (or databases) working toward a literature review for my project.  I had already done quite a bit of reading before the summer began, so a lot of time was spent searching for new articles and trying to triangulate findings from other studies.  Because my study blends political science and psychology research, I have had no real shortage of articles to read, although neither discipline has a large literature on my specific topic.

One thing that I found particularly interesting in my reading is that many of the articles on conformity, specifically those associated with political views, are very outdated.  Most of these papers were written between the 1950s and 1980s.  I understand that the 1950s spawned conformity research based on McCarthyism and studies building on the classic Asch experiments, but I wonder why the topic has been scantly revisited.  I also know that research has its ebbs and flows and which topics are “hot” in the field are influenced by many factors, but it still seems odd.  But, this makes me even more excited to conduct my study and contribute to the literature.  A few articles I read discussed the possibility that tendencies to conform could be part of a cohort and it may only be widespread in human behavior in certain time periods (specifically, during the 1950s).  This presents a challenge for my research, but it also could help support (or contradict) the cohort hypothesis to an extent.  Additionally, several articles in the psychology literature address personality characteristics that tend to make an individual more or less inclined to conform or be influenced by others.  Because personality characteristics can be fairly simple to assess in established questionnaires, I am toying with the idea of including that in my study and questionnaire.  Of course I would have to go through the IRB process again, but it could be worthwhile to look into.

From here, I will be jumping into the drafting of a literature review (which I’m sure will lead to more reading…it always does).  This is just a little sample of how the research has been going so far and what I’ve been reading about.  Now that I’m back in Williamsburg, I look forward to collaborating with some other students as I move forward with this project!