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Monthly Archives: January 2012

The ‘idiot’s guide’ to… conformity!

The definition of conformity is: Behaviour in accordance with socially accepted conventions or standards. Which basically means doing things as other people do. Conformity is all around in in the real world and is the cause of many things in life such as group hatred or racism.

Kelman (1958) was the first to put forward the idea of there being three different levels of conformity. These included:

  • Compliance‘doing things because they are expected’ and usually involves a threat which encourages to follow these behaviours. It involves strong internal deceit and is the most common level of conformity however not the deepest – people can easily and often do rebel to this. It is encouraged by observation however it is often the case that when we are not being watched, we no longer comply. An example of this could be Carlos Tevez being fined £9.3 million for speaking badly of the club. Notice this involves the fine which is the threat in this case.
  • Identification ‘doing something because it’s your job/role’ which usually involves behaviour of people in the work place as they take on behaviours which are to be expected of them in their job. In professional cases we must understand that it may not reflect on their usual social behaviours and it could have a lot to do with the uniform… It is also relevant in social subgroups (‘I am a teen therefore i will put headphones in and wear fashionable clothes’) but it is important to remember that everyone is still unique yet we allow ourselves to be identified. An example is a customer service agent always smiling, speaking in a friendly tone and always being overly helpful.
  • Internalisation ‘getting someone else to genuinely believe your values so  they adopt these behaviours’ and is the deepest of all types of conformity yet is much more difficult to do. Unlike the others, this is most successful when a positive and supportive approach is used and happens through trust usually through a few individuals. With this the behaviours are deeply indented so they continue even when the person is not observed. My personal favourite example of this is Martin Luther King.

Normative social influence is simply compelling to fit in, just because others do while informative social influence is compelling because you assume others know better than you. These are very important things to recognise…

The meta-contrast principal is the tendency for group members to see strong similarities between themselves and other members of their group and to see large differences with other social groups. This is something that is easy to relate to for most people which helps us to understand this a lot more.

Finally, there is a key difference between majority influence and minority influence which Asch (1951) helped to prove.

  • Minorities exert the most influence when they are consistent & Clark (1989) said there are two ways that a minority exerts influence, which is: providing persuasive arguements as people listen to what is said and change their views, the other is showing defective behaviour.
  • Majority influence links a lot to normative social influence…