Topic 8 – Question 1
Is conformity to group norms a good or bad thing?
Conformity is a type of social influence involving a change in belief or behavior in order to fit in with a group. Conformity is inherent in our everyday lives and can occur when we are with others or when we are alone. For example, many of us follow social standards for eating when we are with a group and when we are alone. Conformity occurs when individuals yield to group pressures or expectations, also called norms. The text defines norms as the informal rules and shared expectations that groups establish to regulate the behavior of their members (McShane and Steen, p.194). Norms develop as soon as teams form because people need to anticipate or predict how others will act. Norms also form as team members discover behaviors that help them function more effectively (McShane & Steen, 2009).
Why do people conform? Social Identity Theory explains a person’s self-concept in terms of the person’s unique characteristics (personal identity) and membership in various social groups (social identity) (2009). People are more likely to conform depending on how much value they place on the group they are in and how much it attributes to their self-concept. As a result we are motivated to improve the image and status of our own group in comparison with others. Some people have a greater need for social approval or a higher need for affiliation than others and are more likely to conform and to be a part of groups. Conforming to a group may make people feel better about their self and improve self-confidence. Needless to say, nonconformists have a lower need for affiliation and are less likely to care what other people think. They generally have more self-confidence than those with a higher need of social approval.
Group conformity is necessary for society to function. Many of society’s most basic institutions – government, finance, transportation,...