Essay on Conformity
Conformity: the state of having changed yourself to match the appearances and/or personalities of those around you. In many cases, people feel the need to conform because they wish to feel a part of something bigger than them. This is unfortunate however, because it robs people of their individuality and their free will. Without individual creativity and self-expression, a lack of ideas results, leaving a dull and uncultured society, and possibly a group of people making bad decisions because a few people who appear to be “hip” are making them. In the following essay, I will discuss the negative impact that conformity has on society. I will use examples from my own experience, as well as the experiences and ideas documented by others in essays and film.
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To ride the bandwagon or live without friends, those were the two choices I was given as a child growing up in elementary school. By the time I hit third grade, there were no cliques like there are in high school and college; you were either part of the “in” crowd or you weren’t. If you weren’t wearing the same designer clothing and an all-star in sports, then you weren’t cool enough to associate with. Because I did not bend soon enough to the whims of the “in” crowd, I was teased mercilessly and left friendless. I did want to be cool and have friends, but since I was labeled “uncool” early, I was never given that second chance. I felt so pressured to be liked that I would do anything that I was told to do, just to have someone to play with, only to be left alone and laughed at anyway. This ceaseless taunting left me dejected and with low self-esteem, and stunted the maturity of my social skills. I was afraid to express myself in school for fear of being laughed at, so I would keep to myself. Because of the pressure of others to conform, my individuality was suppressed.
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Conformity is behavior that complies with socially accepted standards, conventions, rules, or laws among groups, which occurs when members of a group give in to perceived pressures from the other group members. This article will focus on the concept of conformity. There will be an introduction of the four types of conformity as well as research conducted on the topic by scholars such as Asch and Sherif. Finally, the article will explore why groups behave the way they do and how groups can influence individual behavior.
Keywords Conformity; Deindividuation; Group Polarization; Group Socialization Theory; Groupthink; Minority Influence; Social Facilitation; Social Loafing
Social Interaction in Groups
Group Socialization Theory
Theorists like Turner (1987), Tesser (1988), and Brewer (1991) have all shown how social-cognitive approaches can illuminate otherwise inexplicable aspects of human group behavior. One of these aspects is how people can "belong simultaneously to many groups and can shift their allegiance from one to the other, without moving an inch, in response to changes in relative salience" (Harris, 1995, p. 465). Because of this ability, a person can identify with a group even if (1) the group is never all present in one location, or (2) the person never meets all or even any of the group members.
Judith Harris' group socialization theory, which is based on the four fundamental predispositions which humans and primates hold in common, is used to explain these unique human behaviors (1995). The four predispositions, which can be correlated with the basic types of behavior, are:
- Group Affiliation: By indentifying themselves as part of a group, group members tend to favor each other above non-group and out-group members.
- Fear: Group members exhibit apprehension about or aggression toward strangers. If group members demonstrate strong in-group favoritism, this predisposition may manifest itself as out-group hostility.
- Within-group Jockeying for Status: Group members attempt to raise their prestige within the group in order to gain greater power over group resources.
- Seeking Close Dyadic Relationships: Group members attempt to develop loving relationships with other group members (Harris, 1995).
Social psychologists have defined groups as entities with two or more individuals who have some type of relationship and interact with one another (i.e., a class, a team, and coworkers). As a result of the relationship, most groups tend to establish
- Norms to govern behavior
- Roles to define responsibilities and position
- A communication system that provides guidelines for how the group will communicate with one another, and
- A hierarchy that determines who has power and influence within the group.
What is Conformity?
Conformity occurs when members of a group give in to perceived pressures from the other group members.
Why do People Conform?
There are several reasons why people may feel the need to conform to the standards of a group. Some of the reasons include:
- Need to feel liked and accepted by the group.
- Desire to be a part of the "in" group.
- Fear of rejection by the group.
- Desire to have access to information.
- Desire to obtain a reward from the group.
Two important scholars in the field of conformity are Muzafer Sherif and Solomon Asch.
Sherif's most famous research is his autokinetic effect experiment, which was conducted in 1935. An autokinetic effect occurs when one, seeing a small, stationary spot of light projected on a screen in a darkened room, believes the spot is moving. When Sherif asked his participants how far the light moved, how they responded varied depending on whether they were tested and asked individually or in groups. When tested and questioned individually, participants' responses tended to vary across a wide range. However, when participants were tested and questioned in groups of two or three, their responses varied less.
Sherif's findings demonstrate how people conform to group norms when they are in highly ambiguous situations. The participants whose initial estimates of the spot's movement were at variance the other participants' estimates tended to eventually conform to the others' estimates. The results of the experiment suggest that people tend to prefer group consensus rather than individual decision-making, especially when placed in a situation in which information is ambiguous or vague. This experiment can be described as an example of informational conformity.
Asch's most famous experiment was conducted in 1955 and sought to determine the effect of group pressure in an unambiguous situation. Asch showed his participants a single, standard line and three comparison lines and asked them to determine which comparison line was of the same length as the standard line. When the participants in the control group were tested individually, very few incorrect responses were given. However, when the experimental group participants...