Factors that Influence Conformity

The three factors contributing to this article on conformity are derived by The Handbook of Social Psychology Volumes 1-2. Those factors include situational factors, individual factors, and cultural factors. These factors are illustrated with examples below and explained in a more comprehensible shorthand than in the handbook.

Situational factors tend to look at how the specific environment one is in influences how one behaves. This does not take into consideration the personality of one individual’s being, nor the culture of that the individual has been raised in and participates in. Situational factors are a matter of observation and the repetition of what is observed. For example, one who walks into a dance floor where no one has yet started dancing, situational factors would suggest to an individual walking into the dance floor not to dance because that would be considered non-conforming. Regardless of the purpose of having a dance it is not uncommon to walk in early to a high school dance and see no one dancing. This is because no one has seen it to be a conforming behavior to dance. This is one of thousands of applications.

Other applications may include imitating the posture of others in a room or imitating the dress style of others in a town. Another common illustration of situational conformity is that of eating food at a potluck or family get together. Seeing other people eat makes you want to eat due to conformity. Also applicable, is watching babies in social situations conforming by laughing when everyone else laughs at a joke. Perhaps the baby will not recall or understand the humor; however, the baby will laugh. This is all due to situational social conformity.

Individual factors that influence social conformity are much different. They focus more on the likely hood of certain personality types to conform to what others in the room are doing. For example, an introverted type is likely to conform when faced with, again the dance example. If there is no one dancing the introverted type is likely not to dance. It is surprising that an introverted type would even enjoy a dance at all seen there is much external stimulation. However an extraverted personality is much more likely to seek attention. They are likely to start dancing as a way to draw attention to themselves. From this point, introverted types may start joining in seeing that it is acceptable to dance.

Looking at a much different setting an introvert who has spent time meticulously preparing for a business meeting, will be ready and excited to present. They will present themselves as an expert on their subject and hold their body posture accordingly. An extravert may not find this sort of situation as attractive as it requires skillful attention previous to and presentation. It is likely for an extraverted type not to hold position where speaking frequently in front of large silent groups is required.

Culture is the most fascinating of the three factors that influence conformity. Different cultures have diverse levels of conformity. Specific cultures can contain a generalized personality type it seems. And this personality type really influences how likely one culture is likely to conform as compared to another. It is important to keep in mind that separate cultures also contain different social norms which influence conformity, as well.

Many factors influence conformity. Individual personalities can begin to reflect entire cultures in how people will conform. But in most cases, conformity comes down to who you hang with and what is considered to be the in crowd verses the out crowd.