What is conformity and why do people conform?
Conformity is a kind of social influence that entails a change of behaviors, attitudes and beliefs to be perceived as normal in the society or social group. The first answer to the question “why do people conform?” has something to do with normative social influence. A person conforms because he badly wants to fit in. The person discards his own stand on things because he feels that if he doesn’t, he might get rejected by the group.
Normative influence is present in our daily lives, from office habits to fashion trends. One great example is conforming to the society’s definition of the ideal body type. Mostly in American fashion, women are expected to be thin to be identified as attractive. This explains why women get obsessed with extreme diet and exercise regimens that end up in eating disorders. Men, on the other hand, are expected to be muscular, which ends in ephedrine and steroid abuse to attain a muscular physique.
“Why do people conform?” is answerable by the concept of informational social influence. This usually happens to a person who lacks knowledge and seeks guidance from the group. When a person is in a vague situation and he does not know what to do, he is more likely to depend on others instead of thinking for himself. Information conformity also applies to not knowing what to do in a crisis, where an instantaneous action is needed. People rely on others because it can help ease their fears. This type of normally involves internalization, where a person takes the views of the social group and adopts them as an individual. Experts say that because of this, fads are born.
Another answer to the question “Why do people conform?” is compliance. It is publicly changing one’s behavior or belief to fit in with the social group even though he privately disagrees with them. Although there is a need for a certain level of compliance to uphold the social order, it is not something one should naturally maintain without consulting his conscience.
It is not essentially the best choice for our collective future because as the past illustrates, human beings have an alarming ability to follow orders when they are given by an authority figure, even if they clearly harm innocent people. One classic example is the super obedience of Nazi Germany. In fact, when we think about it, those well-behaved, passive and submissive children who are considered as the ideal children may even be the greater threat to the ultimate well-being of everybody.