“Be Yourself” is one of the most repeated and accepted axioms of our time. But is conformity inherently bad? It’s natural, after all, to surround ourselves with like-minded people who share common tastes and preferences–the very foundation of social relationships. An entire chapter with Costas, Croakies and Top Siders isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
But when conformity takes the form of groupthink and impairs our ability to make rational decisions, the results can be disastrous.
This PSYBLOG post lists ten factors that contribute to conformity. Here are just a few:
As soon as there’s someone who disagrees, or even just dithers or can’t decide, conformity is reduced. Some studies have found conformity can be reduced from highs of 97% on a visual judgement task down to only 36% when there is a competent dissenter in the ranks (Allen & Levine, 1971).
Dissenters must be consistent, though, otherwise they’ll fail to convince the majority.
Indeed, all it takes is one dissenting voice to avoid a bad idea.
5. Need for structure
While personality might not be as important as the situation in which people are put, it none the less has an effect. Some people have more of a ‘need for structure’ and consequently are more likely to conform (Jugert et al., 2009).
Teaching “time management” is often used as a facade for expecting candidates to adhere to arbitrarily busy schedules.
9. Social Norms
Other people affect us even when they’re not present. Whether or not we recycle, litter the street or evade tax often comes down to our perception of society’s view. Most of us are strongly influenced by thinking about how others would behave in the same situation we are in, especially when we are unsure how to act (Cialdini, 2001).
The higher we perceive the level of consensus, the more we are swayed. We are also more easily swayed if we know little about the issue ourselves or can’t be bothered to examine it carefully.
Unfortunately, many candidates who join hazing chapters falsely believe their experience to be the norm.
Some people have more of a ‘need for structure’ and consequently are more likely to conform