The Positive And Negative Effects of Social Conformity


The Positive And Negative Effects of Social Conformity

In this blog I am going to overview the subject in this blogs title and give my opinions related to the subject. In the next few blogs I’m going to try to write about related subjects and then finally, write about how they can all interact together in social situations. Well here it goes…


Conformity, is described as being adapting behaviour in a certain way to conform to social pressure. Conformity is found in everyday social interactions and the way people live their lives, this conformity can be viewed positively or negatively. Conformity in a positive perspective allows people to feel part of a group when they can appear in a certain fashion, look and ways of speaking and address. This type of conformity is known as normative influence, it occurs where people wish to conform so that people like them, or do no think they are foolish. In this type of conformity though it can be seen to be negative as people are basing what they will accept on there own subjective ideas, e.g. I will accept someone as being likeable if they have this or that trait which actually may not be that good a trait anyway. This shows that conformity is based on both a desire to be liked and is also subjective. There is however another type of conformity known as informational influence, this occurs where people wish to be correct. Informational conformity was greatly portrayed in an experiment called the Solomon Asch experiment, this is where 1 true participant sits amongst confederates and is asked to view a line of a certain length and then state which out of three options of different length lines the original line was the same length as. The confederates then all gave fairly obviously wrong answer as planned, the participant on viewing the others answers changed to conform with the others and stated the line was comparable to one of quite obviously different length even if their original answer was correct. This instance also links to the idea of social referencing, this is a process whereby a person will check the accuracy of their response by reviewing the ways others behave. Again this behaviours is both positive and negative determined by the situation in which it is employed. For instance checking the validity of ones response or positive actions may be good to enforce helping and caring interactions. Conversely though in a situation such as a lynching mob to view others actions in a large group whilst feeling uncertain of ones actions helps to enforce this obviously horrific behaviour in a positive way also. For people in a minority situation conformity can have a large influence over a persons behaviour. When a certain behaviour and belief is held unanimously, many people who are in a  minority, or are treated as such feel there is a great pressure on them to conform and accept this prerequisite lifestyle. This is similar to racial tensions seen in the past, however once this unanimity is not solid people generally feel more able to speak up without fear or embarrassment or feel empowered. So in a sense a break in conformity can be a positive thing to allow for changes that may be much needed even if there are questions about the future after a change. This can be related somewhat to the black power struggle in America and figures such as Malcom X and Martin Luther king jr who expressed their own oppositions to social injustice.


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3 responses to “The Positive And Negative Effects of Social Conformity

  1. Do we conform or are we controlled? Aren’t they just the same thing? Socialization teaches us that we must strive to conform to society’s norms and values; we are told that there are things we can and cannot do or say, but is it necessarily right? Social control is needed in order for social order, where would we be if we all thought and acted differently, but actually we do all think and act differently anyway don’t we? What I find acceptable behaviour may not be the same from your perspective, but it certainly will be the same as at least a million other people. Even if we do not conform to a certain belief or ‘rule’ aren’t we just then conforming to another group? If you take the example of travellers for example, they are non-conformist, they do not live by the same rules as the rest of society, they do however conform to their own set of values. They are non-conformist within our society, but they view society as the non-conformist ones. There is no getting away from it; we all conform in one way or another. Therefore is there really such a thing as non-conformity? I think not.

  2. Just to add if you consider Aschs’s conformity study the results showed that over all 18 trials 25% of participants did not conform once. Personally I do not find this number significant enough to ascertain that conformity takes place in all situations. If those people were with like minded people then they would be the majority and the non-conformists would then become the conformists. There are far too many variables for it to be so clear cut. There was deception involved in the study and the study has low ecological validity, how may circumstances would you have to agree on the length of the line in a real life situation? Ok maybe for some professions, but then you would have the tools to prove the fact. Therefore how much can we rely on this as evidence?

  3. Thank you for your comment it has made me see some flaws in my thinking about conformity. I agree with you that there is conformity on all levels and that in a sense individuality cannot be accurately termed as non conformist. Another way of looking at this is to consider new trends and the people that begin them, at first they may not conform to what everyone else is doing and so if everyone begins to follow them are this creates a new kind of conformity, so i can agree that it is a term which does not have accurate meaning on an individual scale especially.

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