Psychological conformity was first studied in 1932 by Jenness using a bottle of beans. He asked subjects, individually, to estimate the number of beans that were in the jar, and then he brought all the individual subjects together in one room and asked them again to estimate the number of beans. Jenness made note of how many people changed their original number based on the answers of others in the room, conforming and leaning to what seemed to be a more popular or rational answer based on public opinion. The people who changed their answers were bending to conformity.
Social influence causes changes in belief or behavior in order to fit into or with a group. These social influence go far beyond beans in a jar. They extend to people’s political and religious beliefs and choices, the houses and cars people drive, their mates, their clothing, how they raise our children and even to the way they allow themselves to think. This change, in response to group influence, whether it is actual (others are physically present,) or imagined, (the pressure of social norms, morals, and expectations are ever present in the minds when people are alone) cause people to conform to group pressure.
Group pressure may also be called Majority Influence. It can, however, take uglier forms such as bullying, teasing, criticism, even hate crimes. At one end of the spectrum people feel the need to conform in order to be well-liked and popular, or at least, accepted. At the other end of the same spectrum, outright and abject fear may be involved if one is trying to cover such a “sin” in the majority’s eyes as homosexuality, a forbidden religion or other affiliation. In the twenty first century many more situations are tolerated than in previous ages, however, so there is less of a dramatic need for conformity, but it does still exist for some people, or people of certain constitutions.
In 1951 Soloman Asch performed the most famous conformity experiment, and in 1969, Man distinguished between four types of conformity: Normative, Informative, Compliance, and Internalization.
Normative: Yielding to Group Pressure because a person wants to fit into a group. E.g. Asch Study
~Conforming because the person is scared of being rejected by the group.
~This type usually involves compliance, the person publicly accepts the group’s views but privately rejects them.
Informational: a person lacks his own knowledge and looks to the group for guidance
~A person is in an unclear situation and socially compares his behavior to the group’s.
~This type of conformity usually involves internalization, he or she adopts the groups values and adopts them
Compliance: Publicly, the person changes behavior to fit in with group, privately, she disagrees.
~Conforms to the majority (publicly) remains independent (privately)
Internalization: Publicly agreeing with the groups norms and also agreeing with them privately.
There are also two subtypes, Ingratiational conformity, in which a person conforms to impress or gain favor from other people and gain a sense of belonging with no fear of punishment involved, and non-conformity. It is here that you find the biggest hope. The second definition of non-conformity is anti-conformity, rebellion against group norms for it’s own sake. Both conformity and anti-conformity have a place in humanity as an instrument for survival, to move people forward, if they are not taken too far. But the first definition of Non Conformity is probably what all humans should aim for, if even as a distant goal, Independence of behavior.