Conformity As A Social Ideology
By Hannah Queen, Marisela Barajas, Kenya McGee and Jacob Hill
Conformity. Most people have heard of it and most people have an idea of what it is, but do we really understand it? There is an oxymoron in conformity, society will tell you to be yourself as long as you can fit in this little box, so be yourself in this box, but don’t really be yourself. It’s like the three pictures below, and it’s like we are wearing a mask.
What Does The Science Say?
We think of conformity on a larger scale like the conformity of social and cultural aspect. However, it can be on a smaller scale as well. Here is oneexample of how conformity happens on a small scale. In the video he gives a speech halfway through he speaks and purposefully makes no sense. At the end two people in the front planted in the audience being clapping and giving a standing ovation. Their enthusiasm and the feel of pressure causes everyone else to also stand and clap even though they had no clue what the guy meant. They conformed in an attempt to not seem out of place. Here is another example that could be argued to be conformity. Jimmy Fallon interviews people and tells them a lie, he uses key words like “Obviously you know”, in not wanting to sound ignorant or stupid people will conform and give their opinion on something that is non existent. Now it can also be argued that this is deceptive, which in a sense is, but what Jimmy is trying to do is see if people will conform to the lie just to not sound wrong; and, they do. Of course conformity comes in different looks, take fashion for example, we all remember certain fashion trends that happened and I’m sure there were ones we participated in. What were some fashion trends you remember being popular? Now not any of these are on the dangerous spectrum side of conformity but some cases are. Now that is all on a smaller scale yet we still conform to them.Interestingly enough when we surveyed people, which we will get to in a bit, people claimed they would conform until it seemed wrong or went against belief systems. That sounds good, sounds like common sense, yet take a look at instances like Jonestown and the Holocaust, many people conformed to that.
Take a closer look at Jonestown for example. In 1978 Jim Jones convinced nine-hundred people, let me repeat nine-hundred people, to commit mass suicide. How did one man convince all those people to commit suicide on not only themselves but their children as well? Rhetoric. Rhetoric can be a dangerous thing. It is said that we was an eloquent speaker and that is all it takes. The people conformed and literally drank the Kool-Aid. There are many reasons as we to why we conform to things, whether it’s for acceptance, because everyone else is doing it, or to even stay out of trouble, whatever reason it may be we all do it, rather we admit it or not. One of the biggest scales of conformityis Nazism and the Holocaust. Hitler himself also was a eloquent speaker as well, the Holocaust is one of the biggest tragedies in history. While Hitler was a terrible person he was an excellent rhetorician the key for how he did what he did for so long.
Doing The Research
When setting out to conduct a survey of the ideology of conformity, ones perceptions come into play. Initially some of our survey ideas included experimentation or deception. The concept of seeing if we could convince people to act in some conforming way seemed incredibly intriguing. Through red tape amongst other things deception was ruled out as a strategy. But there is also an incredible level of intrigue in finding peoples thoughts directly on conformity and where lines are blurred. People’s own perceptions that they bring to the table paired with their own personal experiences you get an interesting portrait of what conformity liens the average person draws and is willing to express.
So we asked people: Where do you draw the line at conformity? We asked for situations where people conformed in their own lives. As well as asking the difference between obedience and conformity?People obviously aren’t going to give you full disclosure type thoughts in a random survey, but there is still a candor in the answers of people who have been directly asked about a strong ideology that impacts everyone in the world every day of their lives on one level or another.
What Role Does Conformity Play in Human Development?
Jerry Burger of Santa Clara University writes that “everyday observation confirms that we often adopt the actions and attitudes of the people around us.” Someone on a college campus filling out a serious survey presented by serious students is much more likely to answer in a “socially acceptable” way than if they were in a different setting, such as at a party or even just a casual meeting with a friend. From childhood, people learn by observing and mimicking others, so it’s only normal for people to “change our attitudes and behaviors to match the attitudes and behaviors of the people around us,”(Burger, 2018).
During the survey portion of our project there was one encounter in particular that stood out both because it seemed so comical, and because it actually reenforced the point we were attempting to make with out ideology. Namely, that people are both naturally inclined to conform to others, an that they are likely to modify their behavior to either avoid situations where they would be expected to conform to the norm, or in a way that makes them appear as if they are not actually conforming. This was a case of the former, as the woman in question went to an extreme length in order to avoid being placed in a position that would cause her to have to have to be inpolite to us, because she was caught between the inclination to conform and the desire not to. As soon as she was asked if she would mind participating in the survey, she immediately apologised before turning around and walking away in the other direction, opposite to where she was originally heading. The explanation for why she did this is a psychological phenomenon referred to as norm of reciprocity. The norm of reciprocity “is a social norm which we both adhere to and expect others to respect. We tend to expect that altruistic gestures be repaid, either with a simple show of gratitude, such as a ‘thank you’, or in some other form of appreciation,” (Waude, 2017) such as answering a few survey questions. She didn’t want to take the survey, but because we were polite and offered her candy, she felt guilty about not wanting to take the survey, because she felt obligated to reciprocate our gesture. As a result, she panicked and chose an extreme action: to literally flee the situation.