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

Medically reviewed by Laura Angers Maddox, NCC, LPC
Updated October 2, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

The pressure to conform and fit in socially can be challenging for many people. The desire to connect with peers and be liked is often based on human survival and behavior. It can be helpful to look at the psychology behind conformity, what it can do to a person, and how to seek support if you want to challenge conformity and feel more confident in your individuality. 

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What Is Conformity?

When some people imagine conformity, they might imagine agreeing or acting in agreement with most people in a group to be seen as "normal" within one's sphere of influence. As defined by the American Psychological Association (APA), conformity is "the adjustment of one's opinions, judgments, or actions to be more consistent with either the opinions, judgments, actions of others" or "the normative standards of a social group or situation." 

Why Do People Conform? 

There are many proposed reasons people may look to conform to society. For example, one might not want to be seen as the "odd" person out, as they may lose their social support system. In ancient history, people conformed to the group to remain safe. People who strayed from group ideals or needs were often outcasts. Although some outcasts may have started new movements or groups, others may have lost their ability to provide for themselves. 

Other influences that can be explored include the following: 

  • Normative Influence: The desire to have others like and accept you
  • Informational influence: 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

Many different types of conformity can play a role, including the following: 

  • Informational Conformity: An individual does not have knowledge or resources and turns to the group for the answer.
  • Normative Conformity: An individual changes their behavior to fit in with others.
  • Identification: Individuals conform to expectations, altering their behaviors to maintain a specific role.
  • Internalization: An individual changes themselves to be more like another person or group.

Conformity is often a conscious decision. However, for some, it can happen without much awareness and thought. If more people in a group conform, an outside individual may be more likely to do the same, even if they don't understand why. 

The Influence Of Group Behavior

Often, a significant aspect of conformity is not the individual's response but the influence and response of an entire group. It can involve how 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 humans form social groups, and while groups are not inherently unhealthy, a group can have a powerful influence over behavior. People join groups for many reasons, whether for survival, safety, control, power, social status, achievement, or companionship. 

In a group, a mode of thinking termed groupthink can occur, which refers to a tendency of participants of a group to reach a conclusion out of perceived consensus, regardless of whether the individuals see the idea as correct or ideal. Groupthink can involve minimizing the conflict and, from there, deciding without evaluating different viewpoints. 

Groupthink can be 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.

Factors Affecting Conformity

Several factors 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 

Research has been done on group conformity, including the Asch conformity experiments, which are among the most influential.

Getty/Vadym Pastukh
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Achieving Confidence In Your Individuality 

A therapist may be a beneficial resource if you conform to outside influences too often and want to be more confident in your individuality but don't know where to start. 

Some people may find themselves conforming out of a desire to be liked and approved of by others. There can be many dynamics in these experiences, including low self-esteem. Research has shown that online therapy can be effective in improving self-esteem, often with results similar to in-person options. 

Finding a therapist to meet your unique needs can be essential when looking for a provider. With online therapy, you can get matched with a therapist based on your unique needs, and then it's easy to switch therapists if you don't find your match initially. In addition, you can easily set treatment goals when starting therapy.


Conformity involves shifting your opinions, beliefs, or actions to fit the views of others or fit in with the standards of a group or situation. If you often succumb to external pressures more than you want to, and you want to feel more confident in your individuality, you're not alone. Consider reaching out to a licensed therapist for guidance and support.

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