Conformity, or going along with the crowd, is a unique phenomenon that manifests itself in our thoughts and behaviors. It’s quite simple to identify countless examples of the power of conformity in virtually all aspects of social life. Conformity influences our opinions and relationships with others, often to a higher extent than we realize. It is posited that people generally conform to the group in order to fit in and avoid rejection or because they truly believe the group is more knowledgeable than they are. After analyzing numerous studies and experiments on the nature of conformity, one will find that the motive of social acceptance is the greatest driver of conformity.
Asch’s Line Experiment
In 1951, Solomon Asch conducted an experiment to analyze the effects of social influence on conformity. He brought in 50 students for a “vision test” in which he asked them measure the length of line. When taking the test alone, 95% of the participants were able to identify the correct answer; however, in the presence of confederates (who blurted out the wrong answer on purpose), 75% of the participants went against their own eyes and conformed to the wrong answer. How does this happen!? What is it about human nature than enables us to be see easily influenced by outside forces?! After analyzing the results of his experiment, Asch concluded that people conform for two reasons: to fit in (normative influence) and because they actually believe that the group is right (informational influence).
Informational Influence – “The group must be right”
When making a decision in the presence of others, many people automatically assume that the group knows more than they do about whatever is it they are doing. People feel the need ...
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...jump right back into shocking the man in order to please, and to be accepted by, the doctor running the experiment. In general, the psychological importance of self-esteem can help explain why people conform so easily: people want to feel good about themselves, which is achieved through acceptance and belongingness (Sociometer Theory), so people will usually go out of their way to feel accepted and thus feel good about themselves.
In sum, people feel the need to conform for reasons: normative influence and informational influence. Even if they consciously know that the group is wrong, people will still conform in order to avoid rejection and feel acceptance. The Sociometer Theory of self-esteem helps explain why human beings are so motivated to belong in society, thus providing a likely explanation for the natural tendency of conformity in human beings.
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