Three differing types of conformity seem to occur:
Compliance, Internalisation, and Ingratiational
Compliance occurs when our behaviour adapts in order to gain approval and/or avoid disapproval by conforming. (2) For example you may take part in bullying behaviour, or sing at a karaoke night to conform with the group, despite not actually agreeing with it. This can happen at all levels, from agreeing to those drinks you'd rather not have, trying smoking when you really didn't want to. Right through to agreeing to bombing another country when you really don't think we should (I think with most politicians they are most likely careerists that internalise or identify as discussed below).
With internalisation we genuinely accept the group norms because of reward. Kelman (2) states that this is high level conformity due to the group beliefs becoming part of the individual’s own beliefs, therefore the behaviour tends to become permanent. Sherif (3) found that people conform to the group norms when they are unsure, as such this tends to occur when we view the group to have authority over us. We yield to the super knowledge, as an example I see numerous clients that comply with their Doctor despite being either unsure or unhappy with the advice. We might conform to government policy on health and nutrition because the authority said that saturated fat was dangerous and polyunsaturated was healthy. We may not have the knowledge to challenge authority, and under the belief that we are rewarded with health we genuinely accept the belief.
Identification happens when we want to establish a relationship with a person or a role within a group, (2) as displayed in the Zimbardo Prison Study in which those involved in the experiment as prison guards complied to the perception of the role. Do we comply in our role as the fat, sick and stressed once we assign ourself that identity? Take genetics, if we are fed the theory that we are genetically predisposed to a condition do we accept or even manifest it to maintain our identity. I see a lot of this on Facebook within health groups set up to supposedly support others, typically it becomes a battle to fit in and be the best/worst case.
So why do we conform? As I discussed earlier I was acutely aware of social conformity from an early age, in fact I began to suspect that extroverted and introverted personalities were often simply differing degrees of conformity. Whilst I'm typically classed as an introvert I often felt it was simply the fact that I'm more than happy to say no. My desire to be myself and do what I want tends to create the appearance of an introvert, in reality I know my own mind and won't agree to conform, not even to authority if I can prove them wrong.
Deutsch and Gerrard (4) discussed Normative and Informational conformity. Normative being the desire to fit in with group for fear of rejection despite privately disagreeing with the group. Taking drugs or getting drunk when you'd rather not out of fear that you'll be ostracised from the group is a good example, and one that most people can relate to. Informational conformity is when we lack the knowledge and look to the group or authority, usually we then adopt this behaviour as our new norm. This often seen in the health industry, from dieters following diet gurus, happy to accept preprinted diet plans, spending cash on yet more editions of the blobby coaches mean in 15 books. Right through to our acceptance of government and scientific/industry policy without question. The promise of reward (skinny/health) in response to submitting to the group ideology has us conforming with something purely based on trust. Two of my friends are soon to release a long awaited documentary that I backed via kickstarted called "On the Back of a Tiger".(5) The film looks at the work of a group of renegade non conformist scientists and considers the conformation for industry rewards that is rife in the scientific community, this will also be the topic for my next blog.
- So what makes some of us fail to conform to the social pressure?
- What makes a freethinker think for themselves?
- Are we taught conform?
- Does public policy on food and drugs help with conformity? Are we drugged droids?
- Is freethinking a risk to the authority/ruling class?
All these will be covered in up and coming posts, but please feel free to comment below and add your voice to guide future posts.
As you may of noticed some of my post have started going via Patreon, the main reason for this is due to my desire to remain independent and not conform. Some of you may know that the previous year has seen a battle with three Universities who have all been keen to explore my research. Yet at the final hurdle I have time and time again failed to secure PhD funding when I refused to alter my proposal to conform. Two academics privately praised my intention but stated that the institution receives funding from industry that opposes my ideas.
I will not climb on the back of the tiger simply to gain acceptance and would rather go it alone. Patreon isn't expensive and my ultimate plan is that rather than purchasing a small online consult with me (currently £8 a day, £30 a week) you will use Patreon at a much cheaper price and the questions will be answered (maintaining your anonymity) in a group post which enables you all to see the Q&A's.
All the monies generated from this method will go towards furthering my research, and it is my intention that the research will be transmitted live so that you can make suggestions, ask questions and generally get involved.
1. Crutchfield, R. (1955). Conformity and Character. American Psychologist, 10, 191-198.
2. Kelman, H. C. (1958). Compliance, identification, and internalization: three processes of attitude change. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 2, 51–60.
3. Sherif, M. (1935). A study of some social factors in perception. Archives of Psychology, 27(187) .
4. Deutsch, M., & Gerard, H. B. (1955). A study of normative and informational social influences upon individual judgment. The journal of abnormal and social psychology, 51(3), 629.
5. The Production Journal for: On the Back of a Tiger. Perceive Think Act http://perceivethinkact.com