Conformity—It Happens Everywhere

By Kayshia Kruger

As I was previously reading Chapter 6 from my Intro to Sociology book, I came across the definition of the word “conformity”. Not only the word, but also the definition struck me. It reads, Conformity is the degree to which we will alter our behaviors, attitudes, and points of view to fit into our perceived expectation of what is appropriate. Now, I don’t know about you, but everywhere I go I seem to see the acts of conformity happening. It’s almost as if you can’t escape it. Being on a college campus, I felt it was only necessary to take advantage of more closely observing these kinds of behaviors.

Conformity most certainly occurs all over the world and in schools. I remember back in High School, if you didn’t conform, you were the “outcast”.  If you didn’t eat lunch with the popular kids when you were asked to, you were never going to be cool. But in college it’s a lot more complex than that. I think conformity on college campuses is a little more subliminal than we all think.

On campus, I’ve noticed that when professors ask for students’ opinions on a certain subject matter, many students conform to the majority opinion. We do this because of many different reasons. According to the term “normative social influence”, we conform to the majority because we want to be liked. We know that others are wrong, but we don’t want to look bad, so we conform to the majority. Another reason people may conform is due to the term “informational social influence”, which is that we want to be right. What happens is, we say to ourselves, “Everyone else can’t be wrong, so I must be wrong.” Therefore, you believe the majority is correct with their opinions, answers, or beliefs, and conform to them. One important thing that I’ve noticed would have to be that the greater the privacy, the less of conformity there is going on.

When people are within a group, most often they want to conform to the majority and rarely offer their own opinion—especially when it goes against what the majority of people think. It’s quite obvious that when you’re with a crowd, your behavior changes. If you haven’t observed this phenomenon, then you should start. Being a Psychology major, it’s hard not to observe things, but when I started observing the fact that people change when they’re with or around other people—it amazed me. When group conformity occurs, it’s called Groupthink. Groupthink is the term used for when group decisions are made without objective thought. Often times a group makes decisions that they normally wouldn’t make as an individual.

Conformity happens everywhere. It occurs in public transportation systems, on the road, walking down the sidewalk, at the library, and even in class. Conformity can be the result of real or imagined pressure from a person or group of people.

I’ve noticed that there are some factors that can decrease conformity. If a person is held accountable for an accurate decision and will later need to justify their answer, it decreases conformity. What this means is that most people will go along with people to get along unless they know that they will be held accountable for a compliant decision. I’ve also noticed that the more insecure someone feels within a group, the more likely they are to conform. For example, if you are working on a group project for a class and you feel sure that you’re liked and accepted by your acquaintances, you’ll be more likely to voice disagreement within that group than if you had felt insecure in your relationship with the people of that group.

With all of that being said, conformity can be observed in many different situations and it occurs in all different kinds of environments. The next time you’re sitting in class or hanging out with a group of people, try to sit back and observe the behaviors of others as they interact. It just might make for a good laugh to notice your friends behave in ways they normally don’t.