What Is Conformity And What Does It Do To A Person?

Updated March 8, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

At one point or another, many of us have the experience of wanting to fit in due to social pressure. It can be a very common feeling, so it can make sense to wonder: why exactly do many of us feel this urge to conform and fit in? In this article, we will discuss the psychology behind conformity, what it can do to a person, and how to seek support if you are wanting to challenge conformity and feel more confident in your individuality. 

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What Is Conformity?

Most of the time when we consider conformity, it involves agreeing or acting in agreement with most people in a group, in a way to be seen as "normal" within one's sphere of influence.

As defined by the American Psychological Association, conformity is “the adjustment of one’s opinions, judgments, or actions” to make them more consistent with either the opinions, judgments, actions of others, or “the normative standards of a social group or situation.” 

There can be two main elements of conformity: compliance and conversion. Compliance involves temporarily acquiescing to outward pressures, and conversion involves a more permanent personal acceptance. In other words, conversion refers to the “actual change in an individual’s beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors that occurs as a result of social influence.”

The Reason For Doing This

So, why might people do this? Well, there's a range of reasons that are put forward, and in many cases, it involves looking to others for clues on how we should behave. We don't want to be seen as the "odd" person out because of our like or dislike for something. There is also the factor that others might have more knowledge than we do so that it could be instructive.

In many cases, it also involves wanting to prevent oneself from looking like a fool, and it can be strong in situations where we aren't sure on how we should act, or when the expectations are ambiguous. 

There are other types of influences as well that are worth exploring, such as:

  • Normative influence, which comes from the desire to have others like and accept you, so you go along with something even if you don't agree with it. 

  • Informational influence, which happens when an individual changes their thoughts or behaviors based on information provided by another group participant, to conform to that view out of a desire to be right.

The Types Of Conformity

There are many different types of conformity that can play a role, including:

  • Informational conformity, which happens when someone doesn't have the knowledge and turns to the group for the answer.

  • Normative conformity, which involves changing the behavior of oneself to fit in with others. 

  • Identification, which happens when people conform to what's expected of them, altering their behaviors to maintain a certain role.

  • Internalization, which happens when we want to change ourselves so that we are more like another person or group.

  • Compliance, which involves changing your outward behavior even though you internally disagree with the full group.

With conformity, in some cases, we may know what we are doing and be aware of the behavior, but in some cases, it can happen without much awareness and thought on our ends, and in other cases, we may go along with things we don't like because of the other people that are around us.

The Influence Of Group Behavior

A big part of conformity is not just one singular person and their response, but the response of the group. It can involve the way people behave in certain situations, where people will get into groups for multiple reasons, and from there, start to develop behaviors that follow the group. 

Many of us are in groups, and while groups are not inherently a bad thing, a group is something that can influence you in ways that you may not even think about. People join groups for many reasons, whether it be survival, safety, control and power, social status, achievement, and companionship. 

One thing that can occur in a group is a mode of thinking termed groupthink, which refers to a tendency of participants of a group to reach a conclusion out of perceived consensus, regardless of whether they think it is actually correct or ideal. Groupthink can involve trying to minimize the conflict, and from there, deciding without the evaluation of different viewpoints. 

Groupthink can be quite a problem in many cases, as it interferes with effective group decision making, and it often involves the following aspects:

  • Isolation from outside forces

  • Loyalty to the group to prevent others from raising alternative solutions

  • A loss of creativity and independent thinking

  • The illusion of invulnerability.

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Factors Affecting Conformity

There are several factors that may affect conformity, especially when it comes to group tasks. For instance, some of the following factors may have an effect: 

  • Size of the group

  • Difficulty of the task 

  • Cultural differences

  • Situational characteristics

  • Individual differences 

Lots of research has been done on this, including the Asch conformity experiments, which are among the most influential. 

Becoming More Confident In Your Individuality 

If you feel like you are conforming to outside influences too much and want to feel more confident in your individuality but don’t know where to start, you can consider connecting with an online therapist for support. 

As mentioned previously, some people may find themselves conforming out of a desire to be liked and approved of by others. There can be many dynamics at play here, but one piece that may play a role could be low self-esteem. Research has shown that online therapy can be effective for improving self-esteem.

Finding a therapist that is a great fit for your unique personality and concerns can be very important if you are trying to become more comfortable with your individuality. With online therapy through BetterHelp, you can get matched with a therapist based on your unique needs and concerns, and then it’s easy to switch therapists if you need to in order to find the right match. 


Conformity involves shifting your opinions, beliefs, or actions in order to become more in line with the views of others or with the standards of a group or situation. If you are feeling like you succumb to external pressures more than you like, and you want to feel more confident in your individuality, you can connect with an online therapist for support.

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