What is conformity? Social conformity can be viewed as an
important concept in social psychology. Below is one definition of
Conformity reflects a behavior that is a response to a perceived
What are some examples of conformity? Below are a few
examples of conformity consistent with the above definition.
1. A member of a job search committee in a company does not
object to the hiring of a person even though the member of the
committee has significant reservations about hiring the person. The
member of the job search committee perceives that everyone else on
the search committee is very positive about hiring the person. The
person gets hired. However, the person later gets fired for being
2. A person in a book discussion group avoids making rude
comments in meetings of the book discussion group. In the past, the
rude comments had made the meetings of the book discussion group
unpleasant, and some members were thinking about not attending the
meetings. The leader of the book discussion group suggested that
there should be rules about the type of comments in the discussion.
Possible Reasons for Conformity: Why Do People Conform?
What are the possible reasons for conformity? There may be a
number of reasons for why we may conform. First, we may conform
because we wish to feel part of a group. Second, we may wish to
gain social approval and acceptance from members of a group.
Third, we may wish to avoid being criticized. Fourth, we may wish
to avoid being ignored. Fifth, we may wish to behave in a manner
that is perceived to be right or correct. Sixth, we may wish to avoid
feeling inferior to others.
Conformity Research Findings
There are a number of interesting conformity experiments. There
may be a number of important research findings on conformity.
Below is information concerning some of the conformity studies.
Milgram, Bickman, and Berkowitz (1969) investigated the influence
of the number of people looking up at a building on the behavior of
pedestrians on a sidewalk. They found that more pedestrians stopped
as the size of the crowd looking up increased. Moreover, they also
found that more pedestrians looked up as the size of the crowd
looking up increased. However, the effect for the percentage of
pedestrians looking up was not linear. For example, the difference in
the percentage of pedestrians looking up for 5 people versus 15
people in the crowd looking up was smaller than the difference for 1
versus 5 people in the crowd looking up.
There is also evidence of conformity with respect to charitable
donations. For example, in his first two studies, Reingen (1982)
found that showing a list of (fictitious) donors and their donations
increased the number of people making a donation.
Some people may be more likely to conform than other people.
The findings from the studies conducted by Burger (1987) suggest
that people who are high in the desire for control are less likely to
conform than people low in the desire for control. People who are
high in the desire for control could feel like that they have a
significant degree of control over the events in their lives by not
Burger, J. M. (1987). Desire for control and conformity to a
perceived norm. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,
Milgram, S., Bickman, L., Berkowitz, L. (1969). Note on the
drawing power of crowds of different size. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology, 13, 79-82.
Reingen, P. H. (1982). Test of a list procedure for inducing
compliance with a request to donate money. Journal of Applied
Psychology, 67, 110-118.
My book, Finding Meaning (third edition) contains ideas
about finding meaning in life, adversity, and work.