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.
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.
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.
What is conformity in psychology example?
In psychological terms, conformity involves the changing of one's beliefs or behaviors in order to fit in or gain group acceptance. This can involve emulating the actions of those around you, dressing in a similar way to peers, taking part in activities that adhere to group norms, or any other behavior that may lead to acceptance. For example, the majority of the student body at a school could start to follow the same fashion trend. In order to conform and be considered “normal,” you may prioritize wearing the same clothes or accessories as your classmates in order to conform to the same trend.
What are the types of conformity?
The primary types of conformity are identification and internalization.
- Identification: Identification involves conforming to the identifying characteristics of a specific social role. For example, if a person works as a server at a restaurant, they will likely conform to the dress code and behaviors associated with that role.
- Internalization: Internalization relates to mimicking or adopting the behaviors associated with a group norm.. This typically involves both exclusive acceptance and public acceptance, which means a person may change their belief system in order to adhere to the values of their group.
Why is conformity important?
While conformity can be negative in some cases and giving in to social pressure may be harmful, conformity can also play a vital role in society. By conforming to laws or standards of politeness, we can avoid harming others physically, emotionally, or financially. In addition, a certain level of conformity can help bring cohesiveness to a group. For example, a sports team wearing the same jersey can help to boost comradery and separate them from their opponents.
Another example can be seen in regards to vehicle safety. Just as it can be difficult to see unlit objects in a dark room, vehicles driving at night with no headlights can be harder to notice and may cause an accident. By conforming to the behavior of drivers around them (i.e. turning on their headlights once it starts to get dark), individuals can ensure they, and other drivers on the road, are safe.
What causes conformity?
There are a variety of reasons people may choose to conform to a group, though many can be separated into two distinct categories: informational conformity, and normative conformity.
- Informational Conformity: Informational conformity involves changing our behavior or beliefs in order to conform to a group we believe is telling the truth or is operating off of more accurate information. An example of this would be conforming to the opinions of scientists based on their research or deferring to the judgment of lawyers in situations relating to the law.
- Normative Conformity: Normative conformity typically occurs when we want to fit in with a group, whether that be to gain acceptance, group registration or just to feel “normal.” This type of conformation may also happen in order for a person to avoid facing the consequences that may happen if they do not fit in.
What best defines conformity?
In social psychology, conformity is defined as the process by which people change aspects of themselves in order to fit into a group. These aspects may vary but can include their behavior, beliefs, appearance, and opinions. Conformity may occur for a variety of reasons, such as wanting to be accepted by certain people or group participants, wishing to feel like one belongs or is safe, or because they believe a group has the most accurate information.
Conformity may also occur at different severities depending on a person's position within a group. A study published in The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology found that participants conformed at lower rates when they were high or low status, while those close to the top (specifically thes second highest status individuals) tended to be the most conforming.
What is a real example of conformity?
One example of conformity could relate to politics. If your friends or family all vote in a similar way or adhere to the values of a specific political party, you may be encouraged or feel compelled to do the same. In addition, you may feel that failing to conform to their political values could result in you being ostracized or rejected. As such, you may choose to conform and choose to support the same political beliefs, even if you do not personally accept them.
Another example can be seen in the famous conformity experiment conducted by Solomon Asch. The Asch conformity experiments placed one unknowing participant in a room with individuals who were instructed to give clearly incorrect answers when asked about the length of a line. ¾ of these unknowing participants went along with the group's incorrect answers, showing the power that conformity can have in a social context.
Is conformity positive or negative?
Conformity has the potential to be positive or negative depending on the situation it is occurring in. An example of positive conformity could be seen in those that conform to the opinions of scientific experts. This type of informational conformity may lead someone to reap the benefits of another person’s training and education.
An example of negative conformity may be seen in situations involving peer pressure. For example, if a student comes with a group to a party and other group participants are doing illicit drugs, they may feel compelled to partake in order to fit in. By succumbing to group pressures, this student may experience the harmful effects from these drugs or negative long-term consequences like a substance misuse disorder.
What is a bad example of conformity?
One negative example of conformity can be seen in hazardous workplaces. If a business has poor working conditions, but the majority of workers are willing to put up with them, those who object may stay silent in order to fit in or avoid consequences. By coming forward and complaining, workers may risk being on the receiving end of group pressure or being fired. As such, they are likely to conform and continue to work in poor conditions, even though they could be putting their lives at risk.
Which is the best example of conformity?
While conformity does have the potential to be negative, it can also have positive impacts on social harmony.Here several examples of conformity we may see in daily life that would best exemplify the potential benefits of the concept.
- Acknowledgments or Greetings: While not adhered to by some, greeting others is one way we conform to social norms. Waving hello, nodding, or shaking hands are all behaviors we engage in (in many cases) in order to maintain appearances or good standing.
- Rules and Laws: The guidelines set down by society are another common type of conformity many experience. Typically, this is done in order to avoid appearing rude or, in the case of laws, to avoid financial or legal consequences.
- Lines: Lining up is a form of conformity behavior that many follow automatically, often when they see others doing so before them. This too is done in order to avoid consequences, which range from offending other parts of society to, in some cases, breaking the law.
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