Conforming: Why Do We Do It?


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.

Conforming: Why Do We Do It?

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.

Conforming: Why Do We Do It?

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.

Conforming: Why Do We Do It?

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.

Conforming: Why Do We Do It?

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?

Sources 1, and 2 here, other source was a Psych booklet from school.

Conforming: Why Do We Do It?
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  • Investigator
    Conformity depends on two factors: circumstantial evidence informing who or what the group is conforming to, and consequential plausibility informing people of the consequences of nonconformity. We conform primarily because we are social animals and social compliance puts us into good standing with our peers. The problem with conformity is that it has no grounding principles, there is no ethical floor by which one evaluates the morality of any situation. As long as someone says it is okay, they take away the responsibility of anyone else in any one group to make the situation, defusing deniability and allowing others to join in.

    We have two extremes of conformity: anarchy and totalitarianism. Either everyone makes up their own rules or everyone follows one person. Conformity is a requirement of harmony and unity, because we all have to agree on what rules we will allow follow relative to what each of us wants. The goal of society is to strike a careful balance between the needs of the individual against the needs of the group as a whole. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to that problem, because not everyone will agree on where the middle is, but that is ultimately the destination. When we can all come to common understanding, have rules and laws that apply fairly to all, then we have unity but we also have conformity.

    In a perfect society, there are no rules, because no one is an independent operator of their own agency and as such, they essentially follow orders. As much as that doesn't sound "perfect", the ability to freely make decisions is why we have rules in the first place, because some people choose to break them. Individual biases and desires directly conflict with conformity, because agreements are relative. You cannot have perfect harmony and imperfect compliance. If just one person decides to talk out of turn, the floodgates will open for others to follow suit, unless that behavior is stopped before it can spread. Thus conformity is required to maintain order. The perfect example of unity is a hive mind, where everyone is part of a greater collective and individuality does not exist.

    Life is predicated on the unknown and we are living in a constant state of free will against a sea of conformity. The only question that remains is "which side will we land closer to?"
    Like 1 Person
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Most Helpful Girl

  • redeyemindtricks
    You've left out one EXTREMELY important thing, which is that it's almost impossible to gain significant power and influence over people without conforming to their norms.

    I mean... The examples you've given here all seem to suggest that conformity is exclusively the domain of people with low self-esteem or low status. And you stated that "people with leadership abilties or desire to achieve are less likely to conform" -- TO A CERTAIN EXTENT.

    But let's be serious here for a sec... The HIGHEST-status people, in every single society around the whole world, ALWAYS "conform". Always always always always always.

    Politicians? All look and talk EXACTLY THE SAME... for a reason.

    Business leaders? All look and talk almost EXACTLY THE SAME... for a reason.

    Royal and noble classes, in countries that still have those? All look and talk EXACTLY THE SAME... for a reason.

    Big-league coaches? High-ranking military officers? Religious leaders? They ALL conform, pretty much across the board, to a whole set of norms. The way they look, talk, act, behave, even the times they wake up and go to sleep and the foods they eat.

    Yes, it takes a certain amount of initiative to set yourself apart from "the crowd"... but, also, people inherently don't TRUST others who don't exhibit a certain amount of conformity.
    The more power and influence, the MORE conformity people will demand before placing their trust in that person.
    Like 3 People
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    • Luci92

      All very valid and true points.
      Thanks for your input :)

    • Yr welcome. (: And interesting topic. Were you writing about this for school? (Curious how the topic came to mind...)

    • Luci92

      We studied it briefly in my Psych class, but I really wanted to explore it more :)

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What Girls & Guys Said

  • Jehovahkiin
    Good Take! Probably one of the best I’ve read on this site.

    Although I would add that private/public behaviour and previous success/failure of the majority group play a significant role in conformity.

    In 1951, a study was ran in which each student was given a pair of card. A comparison card, and a standard card. The standard card had a single line and the comparison hard had 3 lines with different lengths. The task was simply to pick the line on the comparison card that was the same length found in the standard card. It was fairly obvious. However, the other four participants were confederates and were all told to unanimously pick the ‘wrong' line.

    It was found that 1/3 of participants in the experiment swayed to conform with the larger group.

    I like this experiment because it demonstrates conformity quite explicitly.

    Personally, I find myself conforming IRL pretty often. I could probably stop it with some conscious effort, but often times, this doesn’t exactly happen to be socially beneficial (ex. exhibiting a personally trait that is looked down upon by the social norm).

    Also, I have a theory that most people that espouse political views have acquired it through social pressure and with this in mind; most people don't change their opinions through logic or reason, but rather social pressure/manipulation.
    Like 1 Person
    • Luci92

      Thank you, that means a lot :)

      Oh yes we studied that experiment in Psych, it's quite interesting.

      I agree with you about personally conforming though, I'm much the same.

      That's an interesting theory, it may well be true.

    • Wc!

      Are you a psychology major?

    • Luci92

      No just doing it as an elective at school (still in high school) :)

  • Cccgala
    Enlightening myTake, I must say :) This made me think of the simple clubs in school and how many of my schoolmates unwillingly conformed with the demands of their undesired clubs because the clubs they really wanted to go were full already.

    Believe it or not, people subconsciously conform to attain all the degrees in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

    Conforming can be good and bad depending on the person; it is subjective. In determining good conformity from bad conformity, we really have to be wary of hasty generalization. For instance, we believe that, "Exercise keeps us healthy and strong; all people should exercise because it is good." A recently injured person will, obviously, not conform to this idea despite his knowledge that exercise is "generally" good for he believes that further physical movement will hurt him more; if he'd do it, his conformity would be bad for him.

    For me, conformity is a barrier to the concept of individuality. It is one's way to shut himself in personal development and hinders the establishment of beliefs, ideals, and principles. I think a simple compliance to a dress code is, technically speaking, conformity.

    It also bars opportunity to satisfy curiosity, I must say. A mother reprimanding a baby not to eat his toys simply tells her child to conform to what she wants and what she believes to be right.

    This has been long. I should end this right away 😂
    Like 1 Person
    • Luci92

      That's very interesting and so true!! Conforming does take away one's individuality.
      Haha that's all good, I appreciate long responses!

  • TheOneAndOnlyBart
    Now I know that this MyTake is a month old already, but hear me out. I was looking for a subject for my English oral exam, and came across this. This is neatly written, informative and just generally a very good subject. Thank you for (unintentionally) helping me out!
    Like 1 Person
    • Luci92

      Thank you :) Glad I helped!!
      And there's no problem about commenting a month later!

  • martyfellow
    Individualist or not, media mind control is so strong now in the US that we are much more conformist than people in other countries. I think people cling to an image of nonconformity precisely because they are total conformists in practice.

    The more piercings I see on someone the more I can be sure that they are incapable of any original thought, about anything!
    LikeDisagree 4 People
  • crazy_eyes
    I'm only guilty of conforming to the law. I was never a social conformist (and I'll rather die than become one) and that's why I was so unpopular in school. I value my individuality, beliefs and opinions and I refuse to compromise or change any of that simply to be liked by someone, whether it's a single person or a group of 40 people. You either like me the way I am or you don't.
    Like 2 People
  • ManOnFire
    So glad someone could write about this, I've been planning on writing about it myself, and still might. Applause to you for touching on this issue, that I prefer to call "group-think."
    LikeDisagree 2 People
    • Luci92

      Thank you :)
      You should definitely write one!

  • coolbreeze
    Nice take. I consider myself more of a leader then a follower. Just because others are doing it doesn't mean you have to do it. We always have the choice and option of free will. Never let anybody pressure you into doing something you don't want to do.
    Like 1 Person
  • Unit1
    Super informative! Very cool!
    I never was one of the crowd's people, I was more like my own self. For that reason I was the outcast and bullied :)
    I call people, who conform like that sheeople. They are all the same: Meet one of them, and you kind of met ALL of them. Predictable.
    Individuality is a treasure.
    Like 2 People
  • yucel_eden
    This take is too intellectual for this site.

    Most people would just go back after reading two sentenced
    Like 1 Person
    • Luci92

      Agreed lol

    • yucel_eden

      Oh and, conforming was common for me before the age of 18. Aka before I started uni. Since then I've matured and no longer do it to fit in. I've observed this for many people too around me.

      The only time I conform is with a girl, only at first though if I have to. I do it well lol.

    • Rainie_

      This is just basics in psychology lol. A lot of people don't really know about it though...

    • Show All
  • slimstiffy
    me and my friend once talked for two hours on the phone about this issue in society and how it might cause bad results. he was pretty convinced that were on the road to the shitter,, and i have to say part of me agrees.
    Like 1 Person
  • Oram52
    Love the Take very insightful. Guess we all conform in some ways, its literally impossible not to conform, its just matter if to what extent one is conformist.
    Like 1 Person
  • Jersey2
    The Politically Correct police enforce conformity more now than any other time I can remember.

    Having a thought or idea that the PC police do not approve of brings on an unhinged diatribe of how you are this or you are that!!
    Like 1 Person
  • SvetlanaSavachenko
    I'm a nonconformist I always have been and always will be. I refuse to conform to anything or anyone! I am me!
    Like 1 Person
  • JohnGoodMan
    Believe it or not it is in human nature to want to be part of a group. People are far more likely to commit suicide if they don't feel as if they belong or fit in with others, therefore, conforming to a certain degree is necessary for survival.

    Like 1 Person
  • Harpesian
    Cool. We've never really been much for conformity here but my sister seems to be having second thoughts recently (traitor!) so it's nice to see some explanations to give me a better understanding of such an anomaly.
    Like 1 Person
  • _HimigNgKalayaan_
    In a society and as a member of one, anyone had conform at some point in their life even the ones who claims to have not.. After all humans are social animals
    Like 1 Person
  • Phoenix98
    I don't hate conforming, I'll never do it, good mytake.
    Like 1 Person
    • You already are conforming.

    • Phoenix98

      @BubbleBoy69 Really explain to me how I am then hmm?

    • Well let's see. Would you ever do anything that goes outside of what society tells you is wrong and not socially acceptable?

      For example being friends with a former rapist.

    • Show All
  • abundantlyrich
    Energetically they are still in slumber until an incident wakes them up
    Like 1 Person
  • Jager66
    This was a good read, you obviously put a lot fop work into this.
    Like 1 Person
  • CancerianMan81
    that's why I've never been conformed to the ways of this world cause I never could stand authority figures
    Like 1 Person
    • star children are the natural balancers of what works and what doesn't

  • NinjaZero420
    Most people don't know they are conforming when they do.
    Like 2 People
  • CheerGirl38139
    nicely done girl.
    Like 1 Person
  • reixun
    Informative 😀
    Like 2 People
  • MG-TOW
    Great article.
    Like 1 Person
  • QuestionMan
    Great take :)
    LikeDisagree 2 People
  • John_Doesnt
    But I'm sure you love ponies and pink.
    • Luci92

      Is that the only thing you got out of that take?

  • Anonymous
    This is why I choose to be a lone wolf. As a lone wolf, I don't have to conform to any group or rules.
    Like 1 Person
  • Anonymous
    Because we realize that the things that are successful, are the ones that we need to conform to
    Like 2 People