Have you ever found yourself conforming to the norms and standards set by society? The social conformity theory explains why we tend to adjust our behavior, attitudes, and beliefs to fit in with the group. This theory has been extensively researched and has several significant implications for social psychology.

What Is Social Conformity Theory?

The social conformity theory suggests that individuals conform to the expectations of a social group to gain acceptance or approval. This can be observed in various contexts such as peer pressure, groupthink, and obedience to authority. People tend to conform when they believe that their behavior will be evaluated by others or when they are uncertain about what is expected of them.

Types of Social Conformity

There are two types of social conformity – normative conformity and informational conformity.

Normative Conformity: Normative conformity occurs when individuals conform to the expectations of a group despite their own beliefs or values. This type of conformity is driven by the desire for acceptance and fear of rejection. For example, a person might agree with an opinion expressed by a group even if they do not believe it themselves because they want to fit in.

Informational Conformity: Informational conformity occurs when individuals conform because they believe that the group’s opinion or behavior is correct. This type of conformity is driven by a desire for accuracy and a belief that others have more knowledge or experience on a particular subject.

The Asch Conformity Experiment

One classic experiment conducted by psychologist Solomon Asch demonstrated the power of normative conformity. Participants were asked to look at three lines of different lengths on a card and then match them with another line on another card.

However, all but one participant were confederates who purposely gave incorrect answers. The results showed that participants conformed to the wrong answers given by the group despite knowing they were incorrect.

The Stanford Prison Experiment

Another classic experiment conducted by psychologist Philip Zimbardo demonstrated the power of conformity to authority. The Stanford Prison Experiment involved randomly assigning participants to be either guards or prisoners in a simulated prison environment. The guards quickly became abusive, and the prisoners became submissive, demonstrating how individuals can conform to the roles they are assigned.

Implications of Social Conformity Theory

Social conformity theory has significant implications for social psychology. It explains why people conform to society’s expectations, even when it goes against their beliefs or values. It also explains how groupthink and obedience to authority can lead to negative outcomes such as discrimination and prejudice.

Conclusion

In conclusion, social conformity theory is a crucial concept in social psychology that explains why individuals conform to the expectations of a group. Normative conformity and informational conformity are two types of social conformity that have different motivations behind them.

The Asch Conformity Experiment and the Stanford Prison Experiment are classic examples that demonstrate the power of social conformity. Understanding this theory can help us recognize when we are conforming and make conscious decisions about whether we want to continue doing so or not.