Groupconformity is the change of behavior as a strategy to fit into afaction. It is caused by the social influence that alters people’sbeliefs. Consequently, it makes them modify their conduct. Thetransformation of behavior occurs due to a real physical or imaginedexistence of social customs. The social norms create conformitypressures on an individual, which leads to influence (Mcleod).
The firsttype of conformity is compliance. It occurs when individuals yield toinfluence with the hope of achieving favorable reactions from eitherother people or groups. The person gives in to the group behavior togain particular rewards or approval. Sometimes, the acceptance ofbehavior is a strategy for avoiding punishment or disapproval. Insuch a case, the individual only conforms to the majority in publicalthough he or she disagrees with the crowd privately. The lineexperiment conducted by Solomon Asch best describes how conformityworks. He devised the test with the aim of investigating the degreeof social pressure exerted by a majority group to affect anindividual to conform. The procedure entailed a group of 50 studentsfrom Swarthmore College in the United States of America. The studentsparticipated in a vision test where a naïve participant was placedin a room together with seven confederates. The Confederates hadfore-planned their responses on a given task while the real memberhad no information about it. The aim of the confederates was to makethe actual contestants believe that they were all in a neutralsituation (Shuttleworth).
During theexperiment, the participants were provided with a singlejustification line on one card and three other different options onanother tag. Among the three lines, it was apparent that one of thelines was of the same length with the one for justification. The taskwas to state which of the three lines was of the same length as thejustification line. Besides, the participants were required to statetheir answers aloud. The experiment involved 18 trials where theconfederates intentionally gave the wrong answers as a strategy tomake the real member obey the rules of the group. On average, theoriginal participant was observed to be in agreement with the groupon one for every three trials. Upon an interview on why thecandidates yielded to the opinion of the group, they indicated thatthey did not fully believe in their compliant answers. Instead, theyopted to follow the team due to the fear of ridicule. Only a fewparticipants indicated that they believed the group’s answers werecorrect. The study concluded that conformance is a temporarybehavior change. It stops when there are no group pressures(Shuttleworth).
The secondtype of compliance is internalization. Individuals genuinely yield toa given action due to the associated intrinsic rewards. They alsoadapt to the groups` behavior since it is congruent to the personalvalue system. Consequently, the person attempts to conform to a groupwhile he or she agrees with the faction privately. In this case, thechange in behavior is permanent since the beliefs of the group becomepart of the individual (Foster).
In anexperiment to demonstrate that people conform to groups, a Sheriffplaced various individuals in ambiguous situations to identify theirresponses. Through a lab test, he utilized the kinetic effect wherea small spot of light was projected on a screen. The spot was stillbut appeared to move through a visual illusion. The individualparticipants were instructed to give an estimate of how far the lightseemed to go for example 20 or 80 centimeters. Later, theparticipants were tested in groups of three. The group`s compositionwas manipulated by placing one individual whose estimate was verydifferent and two people whose estimates were very similar whentested individually. Besides, the participants were required to statealoud how far they thought the light had moved. The trials depictedthat the groups converged to a common estimate. The majority of theindividuals whose estimates were significantly different conformed tothe other two participants in the group. The results indicated thatpeople have a tendency to conform to groups when faced with ambiguoussituations such as the kinetic effect (Foster).
The thirdtype of group conformance is identification. It occurs when a personyields to a group’s behavior with the sole aim of establishing orsustaining a self-defining relationship to the group. Individualsyield to the behavioral expectations of social roles such as police,nurses, and customer service professionals. To demonstrateidentification conformance, Zimbardo formulated a set of prison rulesfor students at the Stanford University. He built a mock prison atthe Stanford University psychology building block and recruitedseveral students who assumed the functions of corrections officersand inmates. At first, he ensured normalcy of the students by issuingdiagnostic interviews to eliminate candidates with psychologicalproblems, medical disabilities, and a history of crime and drug abuse(Ratnesar).
The prisonerswere treated like real criminals and were arrested without warningand taken to the local police station. At the station, the suspectswere photographed, fingerprinted and booked into the mock prisons.All the guards were dressed in similar Khaki uniforms and worespecial sunglasses to avoid eye contact with the arrested people.They were ordered to do whatever they thought was necessary toenforce law and order in the prisons, and command the respect of theincarcerated individuals. Zimbardo`s role entailed observing thestudents as they played their roles and acted as the jail warden(Ratnesar).
Theobservations from the study revealed that the inmates and the guardssettled into their roles within the first day. After several hours,the guards began harassing the prisoners. They enjoyed acting in asadistic and brutal manner. Specifically, they offered the inmates aset of pointless and annoying duties to accomplish such as pushupsand washing the toilet with their bare hands (Mcleod). On the otherhand, the prisoners yielded to the locked-up people’s behavior andtalked about the jail for a considerable amount of time. They alsobegan to follow the prison rules and sided with the guards againstinmates who failed to obey the rules. The guard –prisonerrelationship changed over time as the wardens became more derisive byholding the prisoners in contempt (Ratnesar).
The guardsdemanded more from the prisoners in line to their submissiveness. Thedependence of the detainees on the sentinels made them make an effortto please them. The third day of the experiment involved a prisonstrike where prisoners removed their stocking caps and barricaded thejail doors using their beds. The guards retaliated using fireextinguishers and shot a stream of chilling carbon dioxide to theinmates. The ringleader of the strike was placed into a separatecell, and the guards increased the harassment of the prisoners. After 36 hours, one prisoner had to be released from the experimentas his thinking became disorganized. He appeared to get into deepdepression. The next three days saw the release of four additionalprisoners after indicating signs of emotional disorder with apotential of lasting consequences. The experiment did not last forthe intended fortnight and had to be canceled after seven days(Ratnesar).
The studyindicated that people are bound to conform to social roles they areexpected to play. The prison’s brutal behavior was significantlymentored by the jail environment since none of the students indicatedsigns of brutality before the study. Most of the participantsreported that they felt overly committed to their roles. They alsodiscovered their other side that they never knew existed (Ratnesar).
Inconclusion, People tend to imagine themselves as unique from everyoneelse. It is true that everyone possesses distinct characteristicsthat differentiate him or her from the crowd. Despite humans’imaginations and wishful thoughts, individuals are, most of thetimes, forced to comply with some rules set by the society. Forexample, drivers are obliged to stop at the red traffic lightschildren and adults are forced to go to school and work similar tohow police officers are paid to enforce the laws. As the examplesindicate, the lack of compliance with societal rules breaks down thesocial structure. The fundamental question behind conformity is whypeople yield even when there are less important reasons to obey therules. Conformity is, therefore, a term that indicates a person’sagreement to the position of the majority. It is brought about by thedesire to fit in and be liked by the social groups or the aspirationto be right.
Foster, Carrie. Social Psychology-Norm Formation. Organizationaldevelopment. 2013. Web.08 Aug.2016.<http://organisationdevelopment.org/social-psychology-norm-formation/>
Mcleod, Saul. Asch Experiment. Simply Psychology. 14 Feb.2008. Web.08 Aug. 2016.<http://www.simplypsychology.org/asch-conformity.html >
Mcleod, Saul. What is Conformity? Simply Psychology. 2008.Web.08 Aug. 2016.<http://www.simplypsychology.org/conformity.html>
Ratnesar, Romesh. The Menace Within. Stanford Alumni. Web. 08Aug.2016.<https://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/magazine/article/?article_id=40741>
Shuttleworth, Martyn. Asch Experiment. Explorable. Web. 08Aug. 2016. <https://explorable.com/asch-experiment>