Conformity Theory

Conformity theory in psychology is a model that describes how people can conform to the behavior of others or a group. This can be done by showing a person or group of people what they want to see and then rewarding them for it. For example, if a person is asked if they want to go on a hike, they may say yes because they do not want to seem like they are not interested in what other people think about them. This is called social desirability bias because it involves trying to please others instead of yourself which can lead to bad decisions later on in life.

What is Conformity?

Conformity is how one's attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors are shaped by what one believes one's potential audience might think. This impact can originate from covert, unconscious factors, overt social pressure, or both, affecting small groups and society. Additionally, when others are "impliedly present," or when they are not truly present, conformity takes place. Any resistance to societal expectations bears the real risk of being rejected by others. In this regard, conformity might be considered a secure method of fending peer criticism or avoiding bullying. Although conformity is frequently linked to youth culture and adolescence, it affects people of all ages. Although conformity can have positive or negative impacts depending on the circumstances, peer pressure is often seen as a negative trait. Using the proper side of the road to drive safely is a good illustration of conformity. Conformity influences the creation and upkeep of social standards and promotes society's orderly and predictable functioning. As a collective phenomenon, conformity is influenced by group size, consensus, cohesion, status, past commitments, and public opinion.

Factors Affecting Conformity

Responses to demands to conform vary depending on a wide range of variables. While those with authoritarian personalities are more likely to conform, those with the highest IQs are less likely to do so. Conformity rates are higher in mixed-sex groups than in single-sex groups when both sexes are maintained among the membership. The size of the majority in favor, the degree of uncertainty in the circumstances, the degree of agreement among the majority of other members, and the open and decentralized character of the group's communication channels are other factors related to increasing conformity. The following factors were discovered to increase conformity

  • The attractiveness of the group's other participants.

  • People were more inclined to comply if the judgment was challenging.

  • The groups with ties that bind them to one another and the group as a whole exhibit higher conformity than those that do not.

  • Larger groups are more likely than smaller ones to conform to similar habits and ideas.

  • Individuals are more likely to follow group decisions when the group's response is unanimous.

  • People tend to fit in with high-status groups.

  • Collectivist societies show a higher level of uniformity than individualistic cultures do.

  • Women are more inclined than men to conform when there is surveillance present, while men are less likely to do so when there is not. Gender disparities are created by societal conventions and impact how men and women respond to social pressure.

  • Younger people are more prone to comply than older people, possibly because they have less prestige and experience.

  • People may conform less frequently when the task is viewed as significant. According to a study, compliance fell when participants were informed that their responses would be used to create aircraft safety signals.

  • Minority factions inside bigger groupings often have a say in the group's decisions. The degree of defection from the majority, the consistency with which a position is held, and the standing and confidence of the minority members are all factors in this influence, which is primarily informational.

Asch’s Experiment on Conformity

Each experiment involved placing a gullible student participant in a room with several additional confederates who were also participating in the experiment. The participants were informed that they were undergoing a "vision exam." Fifty pupils in total participated in Asch's experimental setup. The confederates were informed of their responses when the line task was presented, and the naive participant was completely unaware that the other pupils were impostors. Each student verbally announced which line (either 1, 2, or 3) matched the target line after the line task was presented. About 75% of the participants occasionally followed the group's lead in the conformity experiments. When the trials were combined, the findings showed that participants tended to agree with the wrong group response around one-third of the time.

The experiments also investigated how the composition of the group affected compliance. There was almost no difference in participants' responses when only one confederate was present, and the presence of two confederates caused only a minor impact. Three or more confederates showed much higher levels of compliance. Additionally, according to Asch, the degree of conformity was significantly reduced when one of the confederates provided the right response while the others provided the wrong one.

Types of Influence

Major types are:

Informational Influence

Informational social influence happens when someone seeks reliable knowledge from others in their community. Three circumstances increase a person's propensity to utilize informational social influence: Uncertainty over what to do arises in unclear situations. They are more inclined to look to others for the solution. When someone is subjected to informational social influence, it frequently leads to internalization or private acceptance, where they sincerely feel the information is accurate. The original study on informational social influence was conducted by Muzafer Sherif using an autokinetic device.

Normative Social Influence

When one complies to be liked or approved by the group, normative social influence occurs. Public compliance—doing or saying something without believing it—is the normal outcome. The first psychologist to investigate this phenomenon in a lab setting was Asch. The social impact theory includes three parts, one of which is normative influence. Unexpected effects result from the group's size. Each person's influence decreases as the number rises. How significant a group is to an individual determines the group's strength. Social influence is typically greater for the groups we value. The group's proximity to the influencer in time and space is "immediacy."


Conformity refers to obeying social norms and doing what the majority does. Conformity is a social phenomenon that affects many factors like group size, attractiveness, age, gender, etc. Asch experimented with testing whether people would condescend or not, and he found that in large groups with public expressions, people condescend. If people do not consent, they fear social rejection. Nevertheless, in extreme cases, conformity is dangerous as it does not allow for new opinions and expressions.