What Is Conformity? A-Level Psychology Guide
May 12, 2017
In Psychology, What is Conformity?
Conformity is a type of social influence involving a change in belief or behavior in order to fit in with a group.
This change is in response to real (involving the physical presence of others) or imagined (involving the pressure of social norms / expectations) group pressure.
Conformity can also be simply defined as “yielding to group pressures” (Crutchfield, 1955); or ‘peer pressure’ as we often refer to it now. Group pressure may take different forms, for example bullying, persuasion, teasing, criticism, etc. Conformity is also known as majority influence (or group pressure).
The term conformity is often used to indicate an agreement to the majority position, brought about either by a desire to ‘fit in’ or be liked (normative) or because of a desire to be correct (informational), or simply to conform to a social role (identification).
Jenness (1932) was the first psychologist to study conformity. His experiment was an ambiguous situation involving a glass bottle filled with beans. He asked participants individually to estimate how many beans the bottle contained. Jenness then put the group in a room with the bottle, and asked them to provide a group estimate through discussion.
Participants were then asked to estimate the number on their own again to find whether their initial estimates had altered based on the influence of the majority. Jenness then interviewed the participants individually again, and asked if they would like to change their original estimates, or stay with the group's estimate. Almost all changed their individual guesses to be closer to the group estimate.
However, perhaps the most famous conformity experiment was by Solomon Asch (1951) and his line judgment experiment.