Basic definition of conformity:
Where we change our beliefs or behaviour without any direct requests being made. It's a form of social pressure, and usually entails agreeing with or behaving in a particular way in order to be perceived as normal, or acting like the majority of the group to fit in.
The two major motives in conformity:
1. Normative influence, or the tendency to conform in order to avoid punishment (like going along with school rules even if you disagree with them) or the desire to gain social acceptance. This occurs with strangers, but also with family/friends (who have the greatest influence). Strength of group and connectedness level is another factor.
2. Informational influence, where people change their behaviour in order to be correct. This is common in situations when we're unsure of the right response, and we look to others who are more informed and knowledgeable as a guide for our own behaviours. Again, this is based on desire for acceptance.
When we know that other people are watching us, we will tend to behave in a way we believe is socially acceptable and desirable.
Major types of conformity:
As mentioned before, normative and informational influences are two important types of conformity, but there are other major types as well, all listed below.
· Normative conformity: where someone changes their behaviour in order to fit in with the group.
· Informational conformity: when someone lacks knowledge and looks to the group for direction.
· Compliance: when someone adopts specific behaviour with the hope gaining a favourable reaction from another person/group.
· Internalization: when someone accepts behaviour not only to fit in, but also because they do privately agree.
· Identification: when someone accepts influence by conforming to social roles to maintain a self-rewarding relationship. Imitation of people who are similar or we want to be similar with.
Factors that make us more or less likely to conform:
- Larger group size: the bigger the group, the more likely people are to conform.
- Unanimity: when the rest of the group is unanimous, people are more likely to conform.
- Cohesion: groups of people that are close with one another have higher levels of conformity.
- Age: younger people are more likely to conform than older people, likely due to lack of experience.
- Status: the higher the status of the group, the higher likelyhood of conforming.
- Gender: women are more susceptible to conforming than men when being examined, but less likely when they aren't. Both men and women conform differently to one another, due to social norms.
- Low self esteem: people with low self worth are more likely to conform as they have the most to lose if rejected by the group.
- The difficulty of the task: Not knowing how to perform a difficult task makes people more likely to conform, but increased difficulty can also make people more accepting of different responses, leading to less conformity.
- Personal disposition: certain characteristics influence how susceptible you are to conformity, for example people with leadership abilties or desire to achieve are less likely to conform.
The environment and culture you live in also plays a big part in the levels of conformity.
People from Western cultures are less likely to conform as we don’t want to be seen as being the same as everyone else and value individuality, or at least a perception of it. This is also known as an individualistic culture.
In contrast, Eastern cultures are more likely to conform as they value the needs of the family and other social groups before their own, known as a collectivistic culture.
Examples of conformity:
* Someone dressing a certain way to fit in with the rest of their friends in their social group.
* Someone drinking at a party because all their friends are and they don't want to be the odd one out.
* Someone reads a book for a book club and really enjoys it, however at the book club meeting everyone else dislikes the book, so they simply agree with the others that the book was terrible.
* A student doesn't know the answer to a question posed by a teacher, and when another student answers, the confused student agrees with the answer and assumes the other student is smarter.
They're all pretty basic and stereotypical examples of conformity, but I think you get the idea.
Conformity is doing what everyone else is doing, regardless of what is right. Morality is doing what is right, regardless of what everyone else is doing.
I hope you found this take mildly insightful, even if it's mostly psych terms and technical stuff :)
Let me know what you thought, and how often are you guilty of conforming?