conformity

Conformity happens to people almost everyday.It is how you act to ‘fit in’. The simple definition for conformity is ‘yielding to group pressures’. There are four types of conformity; compliance, internalisation, identification and Ingratiational. I will be defining the different types of conformity, as distinguished by Kelman (1958), and explaining Solomon Asch’s experiment and why people conform.

Jenness (1932) was the first psychologist to study conformity.  His did an experiment involving a glass bottle filled with beans.  He asked participants individually to estimate how many beans the bottle contained.  He then put the group in a room with the bottle and asked how many beans were in the bottle through discussing the answer with the rest of the group. The group where then asked individually to estimate the number on their own again this was done to find out whether their first estimates had changed based on the influence of the group.  Jenness then interviewed the participants individually again and asked if they would like to change their original estimates or stay with the group’s estimate.  Almost all changed their individual guesses to be closer to the group estimate.

Compliance: this is when someone will conform to a group publically in order to achieve a good reaction from another person or a group. This is done for approval and avoids punishment or disapproval. In conformity a person will conform to a behaviour in public but not privately. Compliance stops when there are no group pressures to conform to meaning that conformity is a temporary behaviour change. This is seen in Asch’s experiment.

Example: the music you listen too in public is different to the music at home.

Internalisation: This involves public and private conformity. This means that the change in someone’s behaviour is permanently altered. This is most likely to happen when the majority have more knowledge and members of the minority have little knowledge to challenge the majority position.

Example: your roommate is a vegetarian so you adjust to ‘fit in’

Identification: this is when an individual conforms to the expectation of a social role e.g. police officer, nurse. There does not have to be a change in private opinion. An example of this is Zimbardo’s prison study (there is more information on the Stanford Prison experiment here)

Ingratiational: This theory was identified by Man (1969). This is when someone conforms to impress other people. This is motivated by the need for social rewards rather than the threat of being rejected from a group.

 There are two different reasons people conform identified by Deutsh & Gerrard (1955):

Normative influence -‘Conformity under acceptance of evidence about reality which has been provided by others’-Myers (2009)

This is when someone wants to be right. They do this by looking to others to see what they do. People do this because everyone has a need to feel like our feelings and beliefs are accurate. Someone will feel uncertain in a situation so will look to others to see how they act.

Informational influence –this is when someone conforms to the expectations of others and then gains acceptance. This happens to most people every day as they conform to the positive expectations of others or will conform to receive a positive reaction from others, for example fashion trends. This happens when a group has the power to give reward or punishment based on the behaviour.

Conformity happens because all people have a need for social approval and social acceptance

 Asch’s Line Experiment – There is a video on YouTube of footage of the experiment and explaining what happened HERE

The aim of the experiment was to investigate the extent to which social pressure from a majority group could affect a person to conform. in conclusion this is proof that people conform for two main reasons: because they want to fit in with the group (normative influence) or because they believe the group is better informed than they are (informational influence).

More information about this experiment is available here.

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