It refers to our need to be right. Sometimes, an individual does not know what is the correct behaviour for the particular circumstances. In these cases, the individual will look to and copy the behaviour of others (e.g. modeling). The behaviour of others provides information on what is the correct thing to do in this situation. There are three types of social influence - conformity - compliance - obedience
Conformity involves developing attitudes, opinions, and behaviors to match the attitudes of a specific group. Most people conform to the standard values, also called norms, of many groups without stress and often without even knowing that they are doing so. From an early age, a process of making children conform starts and continues persistently eg. Don’t speak to strangers. Conformity is neither good nor bad. Some degree of conformity is necessary for societies to function. For example, when you stop at a red light, you are conforming to the law and to the general agreement that for the good and safety of society, a red light means stop. You stop, even though most of the time there is not a police officer on the scene to enforce the law. All people balance the need to conform and fit in with the need to express their individuality throughout their lives. Some research into birth order suggests that the oldest child in a family is more likely to conform, while later children are more likely to become non-conformists. However, these studies are open to different interpretations and, although interesting, should not be considered conclusively true.
Young children tend to be the least aware of the group and society values and are the least influenced by the need to conform. However, with more social interactions and more awareness of others, the need to conform grows. Pre-teens and teenagers face many issues related to conformity. They are pulled between the desire to be seen as individuals of unique value and the desire to belong to a group where they feel secure and accepted. The result is that often teens reject conforming to family or general society values, while conforming rigidly to the norms or values of their peer group. An example of this phenomenon is seen when young people join gangs. In joining the gang they are rejecting the community's way of dressing and behaving. Yet to belong to the gang, they must conform to the gang's own style of dress, behavior, and speech. Conformity within a group entails members to change their attitudes, perceptions, opinions, behaviours and beliefs in order to match those of others within the group. In order to conform, the group member must attribute someone as having the legitimacy and credibility to lead or influence the group's behaviour. Without this "leader", conformity toward the group's goals will be less prevalent. The ‘leader’ has the power to affect change in behaviour or belief towards a group's standards as a result of the group’s members who follow him/her. If key members of a group accept messages about how to change behaviour to reduce risky activities such as needle sharing, drinking and driving, and unsafe sexual behavior, other group members often follow their lead and change their behaviour also.
Conformity is tied closely to the issue of peer pressure. Although people feel peer pressure their entire lives, young people who are seeking to define themselves are generally most influenced by the values and attitudes of their peers. Adolescents often encourage friends to do or try things that they themselves are doing in order to fit into to a group. The encouragement can be positive (studying hard to get good grades) or negative (drinking beer after the football game). Deciding how much and which group's values to conform to are one of the major stresses of adolescence. Trying to conform to...