Conformity can be expressed as the change in behavior of a person to “fit in” or “go along” with an individual or a group of people. Similarly, social conformity can be described as a type of influence that involves a change of one’s beliefs or behavior by people as well as the pressure of social norms and expectations to be accepted by them.
According to Deutsch and Gerrard (1955), there are two main reasons as to why people conform: -
Normative conformity is the peer pressure caused due to the need for becoming a part of a group while accepting views and doing activities or things which oneself rejects.
Whereas, informational conformity is when an individual seeks knowledge and guidance from another person, and in this process tends to consider them as superior. This gives an advantage to the superior resulting in a change of behavior in the person.
Furthermore, there are three main types of social conformity. Each level of conformity plays a different role in affecting the behavior of an individual.
It is the lowest level of conformity. It is described as a temporary change in behavior to gain some rewards or approval and avoid disapproval by people. This involves an individual to change their behavior publicly.
For example, an individual may not like certain music but tend to say the opposite as the group says they like it.
Identification is the middle level of conformity. In this level of conformity, a person tends to change their public behavior along with their private beliefs in the presence of a group. However, private beliefs may not change permanently.
For example, an individual may tend to change their everyday attires as per the group but would prefer comfortable or their choice of clothes otherwise.
Internalization is the deepest level of conformity. In this level of conformity, a person tends to change both their public behavior and private beliefs permanently.
For example, an individual changes their religious beliefs and starts worshipping another religion as they start accepting their norms and beliefs.
People learn social skills at a young age by observing and imitating the behavior of the ones around them. As an individual grows older, he/she tends to conform to the group norms and peer pressure by using different ways to persuade others.
In general, conformity can be a blessing or curse depending upon the way it is implemented by society. It can help in abandoning bad habits, at the same time even hamper personal progress causing the chances of depression. Difficulty in tasks can lead to both increase and decrease in conformity. Social anxiety and stress type can influence strong conformity causing an individual to get social anxiety disorder.
Nevertheless, social conformity can eventually be avoided by being clear, and strong in our minds. Having a sense of commitment towards the values and beliefs of our own may help to dissuade us from falling into the social trap. Also, an individual must have the courage to stand up against the groups that foster social conformity, which in turn may serve as an inspiration to others and protect our mental health.
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