Why do we behave like others, even if we do not agree with them?

Photo by:Beverly Yuen Thompson

In the article “how we conform ourselves to shopping” I described that fact, that we human beings tend to behave exactly as the other people around us, when we are in an unknown or uncontrollable situation. Thus we use them as an informational source.

But we people also behave like other people when we know the situation very well. Why? Because we do not want to be excluded by the group we are in, we do not want to be seen as weird people. The heaviest impact of conformity can be seen on teenagers: when a certain gadget, fashion item, product is named as cool by a part of the group, the group pressure will force the other group members to buy the same product in order to not be excluded from the group.

This effect is called normative conformity and has been proven by Solomon Asch`s (19951, 1956) experiments. In one of the experiments he put one participant between more actors. The instructor of the experiment showed them in more runs pairs of cards. On one card there was a line of a certain length, which should be compared with the three lines on the other card.  The  answer should be given which of the lines has the same length. All participants should give their answer loudly. In the first two runs the answers were correct.

In the third run there was again shown a pair of cards, with the same task: say which line on the second card has the same length like the line on the first card? In this run the actors gave intendedly a wrong answer. And the participant? Even if he recognized the correct answer, he opted to give the same answer as the actors before. He adapted to the group pressure to not be excluded from that group.

And under which conditions does normative conformity work the best?

  • When the size of the group is less than five members
  • When the group is important to you, that means if the group gives you friendship, love and respect and you fear to loose it
  • If you have no allies in the group

There are many situation in which normative conformity is used on purpose even if you have not observed it yet. If you want to read more about normative conformity please have a look at “Social Psychology”.

In which situations have you experienced normative conformity? Please, give an example in the comment field.

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