Social Conformity: Why We Follow The Crowd

Social Conformity

We tend to do things that our society rewards or appreciates. Humans are called social animals, and apparently, their behavior is influenced by their society, even if not recognized in the state of consciousness. You might have done something only because a majority of the people in your circle have done it. Peer influence is real, and our actions are influenced to a great extent by it. 

But what’s the explanation for social conformity and what are the factors that drive our behavior are all described in this post. Let’s find out! 

How To Define Social Conformity? 

Social Conformity or social proof is referred to as a social influence that involves a change in belief or behavior in order to fit in with a group. This change can be caused by a real situation involving the physical presence or an imaginary situation wherein the pressure to meet social norms or expectations is felt. There can be different forms of group pressures, such as teasing, criticism, bullying, persuasion, and several others. In other words, it can also be referred to as the majority influence that can evoke someone to take an action. 

Humans seek social acceptance and a sense of belonging, and this tendency is hardwired into them. Moreover, this tendency has been developed and promoted since childhood, and there are many perks associated with it as well. However, it can also transform into social anxiety, thereby hampering mental well-being. 

What Makes Us Conform? 

There is a deep psychology involved in the tendency to conform. However, there are two main reasons that can make a person conform to their society or peers. These reasons are: 

1: Normative Conformity 

The major force that works in normative conformity is the fear of rejection or the desire to fit in. Sometimes, we conform to a social norm even when we personally don’t agree with that norm or belief. In this type, a person conforms to a social norm but, at the personal level, doesn’t agree with it. This conformity is practiced to get a favorable reaction from a group or society. On the other hand, going against the norm evokes the fear of confrontation from the group or society or receiving a critical reaction. 

Compliance is a common form of normative conformity. 

2: Informational Conformity 

Informational conformity comes into effect when a person lacks the required information or feels uncertain about a situation and, therefore, seeks guidance from others. This is mainly seen in an ambiguous or crisis situation. This form is described by a popular experiment named Sherif’s (1935) Autokinetic Effect Experiment, which aims to demonstrate conformity to group norms when someone is put in an ambiguous situation. 

One common example is when we seek advice from others while getting ready for an occasion, believing that they have better judgment. 

Pros and Cons of Social Conformity

Social conformity gives us a sense of comfort and keeps us anchored in life. Besides, the festivities and important events are only enjoyed with the society. These are some of the rewarding factors of remaining compliant with society. However, the social pressure of doing something you don’t want or taking actions that can harm you (expending too much even after being in debt) can lead to anxiety, depression, and excessive stress. Some of the rewards and detrimental effects of social conformity are explained below: 

Rewards Of Adhering To The Social Norms

Some of the main advantages are:

  • Following the social rules and regulations makes functioning smooth and leads to personal and societal growth simultaneously. 
  • It supports the justifiable distribution of the workload and responsibilities towards a common good as per the guidelines of society. 
  • Abiding by the social rules, the individuals maintain a secure environment wherein they live. Our ancestors formed communities to protect them from external threats and wild animals and, thus, contributed to a gradual growth. 
  • Society gives us a sense of comfort, keeps ambiguity at bay, and keeps the dwellers anchored. 
  • As a society, we receive help and extend helping hands to others to promote peace, harmony, and well-being. 
  • Rules are important to run a society and, when not followed, can result in a haphazard environment. 

Drawbacks Of Conforming With The Society 

Check the list for the multi-faceted drawbacks: 

  • Conformists can not add value to their society or bring a change. 
  • When everyone in the society becomes the same, it kills the diversity. 
  • People following everything blindly without questioning can make them prone to many detrimental situations. 
  • Humans are provided with a conscience, but a conforming person fails to use it and, thus, lacks personal opinion. 
  • No system is perfect, and there are possible loopholes in it. However, conformity makes a person put blind trust in the system and the leaders of the society. 
  • Negative social forces, such as teasing, criticism, bullying, or persuasion, can lead to extreme pressure, leading to social anxiety as well. 
  • A conforming mindset also gives rise to autocracy. 

How To Create Balance? 

Conformity can have varied benefits in a society, but individuality is also equally important. The psychology of conformity deals with creating a balance between the inborn tendency to fit in and the desire for individuality. Besides this, a society is made of both conformists and non-conformists. These two groups together form a balance in society. It is important to conform to social norms when appropriate; however, one should keep one’s sense of judgment intact. While conforming with the norms, embracing our unique qualities is crucial for personal and social growth. Thus, you can remain compliant with society and make your own choices in life. 

Conformity and Mental Health 

The sense of belonging and social connection in conformists can nurture mental well-being and reduce the fear of rejection or missing out. It can also alleviate stress and can have a comforting impact on an individual. However, excessive conformity can affect mental health adversely. The pressure caused by this tendency kills one’s natural thoughts and feelings, thereby leading to distress and inner conflict. When evoked by low self-esteem, conformity can affect self-esteem negatively. Furthermore, identity loss and social anxiety are some other forms of mental disorders caused by excessive conformity. 

Reflect Within is a well-known mental health care center that can provide effective social anxiety treatment caused due to the deleterious effects of social conformity and let you live a free life.

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