What is conformity? Social conformity can be viewed as an important concept in social psychology. Below is one definition of conformity:
Conformity reflects a behavior that is a response to a perceived group pressure.
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 committe 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 unreliable.
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 conforming.
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.