Conformity: Meaning & Significance

Changing one's actions to coincide with those of one's peers is what we call conformity. To conform to the norms of a social group, one may feel pressured to adopt its members' attitudes and behaviors. Multiple studies have shown varied motivations for conformity. When in doubt about how to act in a certain situation, seeing how others in the group react may be instructive

What is the Meaning of Conformity?

Conformity is a common occurrence in our social environments. While we may be cognizant of our actions, such awareness is sometimes present. People's tendency to follow the herd despite their doubts has been the subject of several well-known investigations on the sociology of conformity. It may be useful to follow the example of someone who may have more experience or knowledge than we have. To avoid embarrassment, we may act in ways most people see as appropriate in a certain situation. We may be more prone to this inclination when faced with uncertain circumstances or lack clarity about the appropriate course of action.

Experimentation's Record of Consistency

Modifying one's actions to conform to the truth is an example of how information may affect others. When we do not know how to act in a certain circumstance, we typically follow the examples set by others we perceive to be more intelligent and well-informed than ourselves. This might show agreement with the opinions of a peer one holds in high esteem, such as in a school environment when other students surround one. Conforming to classroom norms even though one disagrees with them is an example of normative influence, as is acting in a specific manner to win the approval of peers

Project Jenness, 1932

Jenness had people guess how many beans were in a jar. They started by making their guesses, and then they compared their results. They were first questioned collectively and then asked one at a time. The researchers discovered that the participants' estimations converged around the group's median rather than their initial estimates.

Experiments on the Autokinetic Effect by Sherif

Researchers were asked to guess how far a pinpoint of light traveled in the dark after being pushed by Muzafer Sherif. The autokinetic effect caused the observer to mistake the dot's inertia for motion. The slightest eye movement may give the impression that a pinpoint light is gliding across a dark environment. According to Sherif, there was a tendency for replies to home in on a single average. It was clear from Sherif's findings that when faced with uncertainty, individuals tend to follow the lead of others around them.

Studies on Groupthink and Conformity by Solomon Asch

In this set of well-known tests, participants selected the line with the length most like that of the three presented alternatives. When questioned in isolation, they picked the right option. Approximately 75% of participants submitted to the group at least once when questioned in the face of confederates who participated in the study and purposely picked the erroneous line.

Experiment on Criminals at Stanford

Philip Zimbardo conducted a controversial experiment in which participants' actions were monitored in a mock jail. It shows that people's actions are influenced by their perceived roles. This test and its findings have been met with several objections, however.

Types of Evidence

The two types of conformity identified are general consent (conformity) and personal agreement acceptance. Suppose conformity is described as progress toward a group standard. In that case, compliance is the overt modification of one's behavior toward that norm, while acceptance is the more subtle modification of one's attitudes or perceptions

Conformity to Standards

Conformity to Standards- Changing one's habits to match those of the group is an example of this style of conformity. For instance, adolescents could adopt a specific fashion because they feel more accepted among members of the same social group.

The Uniformity of Information

In this context, conformity follows the majority's lead rather than developing one's ideas. Consider trying out a yoga studio for the first time. To choose the best location for an oner coat hook, shoe rack, mat unrolling, etc., one could observe the actions of others around one.

Identification Conformity

Conformity of identity is dependent on one's social duties. The Stanford Prison Experiment shows this sort of compliance.


When people conform, they alter their behavior to conform to the norms of a group even while, on some level, they disagree with those norms. For instance, one may appreciate a book assigned to one in a book club. Sadly, one finds out at the meeting that everyone else in the group thought the book was terrible. Instead of disagreeing with the majority, one may admit that now the book was bad.

Factors That Make a Difference

The human mind and behavior are very intricate. Various factors, such as

Depending on the Job

Conformity may result. People are more prone to conform if they do not know how to do a challenging activity, yet more difficulty may lead to higher acceptance of varied replies and less conformity.

Differences in Personality

Traits like ambition and natural leadership are associated with less conformity than other traits. When three to five additional persons are present, there is a higher likelihood of conformity. It has been shown that when people are unsure how to react to a certain scenario, they are more prone to comply. The tendency to comply is higher among those raised in collectivist societies.


Knowing why we adapt to our culture requires appreciating these three types of conformity. Two major factors influence our conformity. The first is the effect of informational and normative, which is founded on the idea that people want to live up to the standards set by those around them. Each of us has an inherent need to belong to a loving community of friends and family. Informative influence, in which we accept facts about reality offered by other individuals, is another reason we conform. The context has the most significant role in practically all conformity possibilities. The pressure to conform might be greater than an individual's desire to be true to his or her unique character. The comedic incident exemplifies the three types of conformity and reveals their deceptively easy but profound impact on us as people and as a society. By examining these three types of conformity, we may learn more about how and why we act and think certain ways.