Conformism - what is it in psychology? Who is a conformist?


- a change in a person’s behavior or opinion under the influence of real or imagined pressure from another person or group of people[1].
is often used as a synonym (from Late Lat. conformis - “similar”, “conforming”). But the latter in everyday language means opportunism, acquiring a negative connotation, and in politics, conformism is a symbol of conciliation and conciliation[2]. Therefore, in social psychology these two concepts are separated, defining conformity as a purely psychological characteristic of an individual’s position relative to the group’s position, his acceptance or rejection of a certain standard, opinion characteristic of the group, a measure of the individual’s subordination to group pressure [2]. Moreover, pressure can come from a specific person or small group, or from society as a whole.


- a personality trait expressed in a tendency to
[3] (from late Latin conformis - “similar”, “conforming”), that is, an individual’s change of attitudes, opinions, perceptions, behavior, and so on in accordance with those that dominate in a given society or within a given group.[4][3] At the same time, the dominant position does not have to be expressed explicitly[5] or even exist in reality.[6]

Types of conformity[ | ]

Traditionally, there are two types of conformity:

  • Internal
    , associated with a person’s real revision of his positions and views (comparable to self-censorship).
  • External
    , associated with avoiding opposing oneself to the community on an external, behavioral level.[7] In this case, internal acceptance of an opinion or position does not occur. In fact, it is on the external, behavioral, and not on the personal level that conformism manifests itself.

There are other classifications of types of conformity. Herbert Kelman identified three levels of conformal behavior that are qualitatively different from each other - submission, identification, internalization:

  • Submission
    presupposes only the external acceptance of influence, its duration is limited by the presence of a source of influence, but the opinion remains one’s own.
  • Identification
    has two varieties: classical and identification in the form of a reciprocal-role relationship. With classical identification, the individual strives to become like the agent of influence because of the sympathy he feels for him and the presence of desirable traits for him to assimilate.
  • In a reciprocal-role relationship, each participant in the interaction expects certain behavior from the other and tries to meet the expectations of the partner (or partners). Opinions adopted through identification are not integrated with the value system of the individual, but rather isolated from it. Such integration is characteristic of the third level of acceptance of social influence - internalization.
  • Internalization
    presupposes the coincidence (partial or complete) of the opinions expressed by an individual or group with the value system of that particular individual. Through the internalization process, the behavior of a group member becomes relatively independent of external conditions.[8]
  • Another attempt to identify different species belongs to G. Song and his colleagues. They divide conformity into rational and irrational:

    • Rational
      conformity presupposes behavior in which a person is guided by certain judgments and reasoning. It results from the influence exerted by another person's behavior or attitude and includes abidance, compliance, and obedience.
    • Irrational
      conformity, or herd behavior, is behavior that a subject exhibits while under the influence of intuitive, instinctive processes as a result of the influence of another's behavior or attitude.[9]

    Levels of depth of conformity

    There are many levels of depth of conformity.

    1. Submission
      , which only occurs when the pressure group is physically present. When it disappears, the person returns to his beliefs or behavior. The motive for action is most often the fear of punishment or rejection from the group.
    2. Identification
      is a deeper form of conformity. He appears even when the group is not physically present. This is said when an individual identifies with a group, resulting in his behavior adapting to the ideas of the individual.
    3. Introjection
      (or internalization) is the deepest form of conformity, which involves recognizing certain norms and values ​​as one’s own. This is one of the tasks of socialization.

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    The role of conformity[ | ]

    The neo-Freudian philosopher Erich Fromm paid great attention to what he called automating

    the role of conformity (English automation conformity). Conformism, in his opinion, is a widespread protective form of behavior in modern society - a person who uses conformism ceases to be himself, completely assimilates the type of personality that cultural models offer him, and completely becomes like others and what they expect him to be. see. Fromm believes that this allows a person not to experience feelings of loneliness and anxiety, but he has to pay for this with the loss of his “I”.[10]

    Influence on modern man

    Conformity is inherent to each of us to one degree or another.
    The main characteristics of the influence of this phenomenon on humans are as follows:

    • Its greatest manifestation is typical for people under 25 years of age
      (kindergarten, school, college). At this time, a person is to a greater extent part of unchangeable social groups with their own leaders and extras.
    • Application of a group or team method of work
      . To achieve a common result, several people must come to a common opinion. In such a situation, everyone’s opinion is often taken into account, but it has to be unified, that is, modified to form a common position of the team.
    • The order of relationships between a person and a group.
      If the level of material reward when using the group method is higher than when working individually, higher, conformity in the team will increase. Today, in most commercial companies, team players are valued, since, in the opinion of management, this method brings the best work results.

    Conformity greatly influences modern man, both in a positive and negative sense.

    Factors influencing conformity[ | ]

    The manifestation of conformity is determined by many factors. Some of them were studied experimentally, for example by Solomon Asch.[7] The following factors stand out:

    • individual psychological characteristics of the individual (level of intelligence, degree of suggestibility, stability of self-esteem, level of self-esteem, need for approval, and so on);
    • microsocial characteristics of the individual (status and role of the individual in the group, the importance of the group for the individual, and so on);
    • situational characteristics (personal significance of the problems being discussed for the individual, the level of competence of the individual and members of the community, whether the decision is made publicly, in a narrow circle or in private, and so on);
    • gender and age characteristics of the individual;[11][7]
    • cultural characteristics (in Western cultures, for example, in the USA, England, Italy, with their emphasis on self-expression and defending one’s opinion, conformity is usually associated with humility and compliance and is considered a clearly negative phenomenon; and in cultures where the harmony of interpersonal relationships is highly valued, for example - in Japan and China, compliance with the opinion of the majority can be interpreted as tact and social sensitivity, as a highly positive and desirable phenomenon, a social value and norm [12]).

    Motives for conformism

    There are three main motives for conformist behavior. These are the fear of rejection
    , the desire
    to be right,
    and the presence of sanctions for
    following or not following group norms
    . In this context, normative conformism and information conformism appear.

    Normative conformism

    is a type of conformity that is motivated by the fear of being rejected by a group or the desire to be accepted by a group. Because we fear rejection or ridicule, we conform to the behavior of others in the group.

    Information conformism

    motivated by the desire to be right and to take appropriate, correct and appropriate actions. Because we often don't know what appropriate behavior is, we imitate others, understanding that if someone behaves this way, this is the right thing to do.

    We are also mobilized to conformist behavior due to the presence of sanctions for both compliance with group norms (positive sanctions) and non-compliance (negative sanctions).

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    Conformity and nonconformism[ | ]

    Main article: Nonconformism

    Intuitively, conformism (as a behavioral level of manifestation of conformity) is often contrasted with the reaction of nonconformism, or negativism, but a more detailed analysis reveals a lot of similarities between these types of behavior. A nonconformal reaction, like a conformal one, is conditioned and determined by group pressure and is dependent on it, although it is carried out in the logic of “No”. Behavioral negativism is often associated with the fact that a particular individual finds himself at the stage of joining a group, when the primary personal task for him is the task of “being and, most importantly, appearing different from everyone else.” To a much greater extent, the reactions of both conformism and nonconformism are opposed to the phenomenon of self-determination of the individual in a group.[7][13][14]

    The phenomenon of collectivistic self-determination of personality

    researched by A.V. Petrovsky.
    In the course of his research, it was shown that the alternative to conformism is not nonconformism (its distorted form), but collectivism
    , that is, behavior based not on unconscious submission to the influence of others, but on a person’s self-determination, on a kind of filtering of the influence of the collective. When implementing collectivistic self-determination of a person, a person rejects influences that do not suit him and accepts the opinion or behavior of other members of the team that he considers necessary, depending on many factors (his own assessments, beliefs, ideals).[15]

    It is also noted that both conforming and non-conforming behavior are more common in groups with a low level of socio-psychological development, and, as a rule, are not characteristic of members of highly developed prosocial communities.[7]

    What influences conformist attitudes?

    Some people are more willing to obey authority.
    They are called authoritarian personalities or uncontrollable personalities. Their opposite is internal nonconformists who are not easily influenced by other people. Conformist behavior is influenced by:

    • a person’s personality, formed in the process of socialization,
    • the type of social relationships in which the individual participates,
    • group structure,
    • other members of the group (as evidenced by Solomon Asch's research),
    • the type of task performed by a person in a group,
    • a method of authorizing action or a form of social control.

    There are also circumstances that favor the subordination of a person to a group.
    This happens when:

    • the person has low self-esteem and a strong sense of insecurity,
    • the group consists of specialists
    • a person seeks to participate in a group,
    • the group is unanimous,
    • the unit has no allies,
    • the person has a weak position in the group.

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    Notes[ | ]

    1. Aronson E.
      Social animal. Introduction to social psychology. - ed. 7. - M., 1998. - 517 p.
    2. 1 2 Andreeva G. M.
      Social psychology: Textbook for higher educational institutions. — 5th ed., rev. and additional.. - M.: Aspect Press, 2008. - 363 p.
    3. 12
      Conformity // Large psychological dictionary / edited by B. G. Meshcheryakov and V. P. Zinchenko. — 4th edition, expanded. - Moscow: AST, Prime-Euroznak, 2009. - 816 p. — 2500 copies. — ISBN 978-5-17-055694-6, ISBN 978-5-9713-9307-8, ISBN 978-5-93878-662-2.
    4. Philosophical Dictionary / edited by I. T. Frolov. — 4th edition. - Moscow: Politizdat, 1981. - 448 p. — 500,000 copies.
    5. N. I. Semechkin.
      Dictionary of key concepts // Social psychology at the turn of the century. Stories, theory, research. - Vladivostok: Far Eastern University Publishing House, 2001. - T. 1. - 159 p. (unavailable link)
    6. Dictionary of the history of psychology. — 2007. (inaccessible link)
    7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Kondratyev M. Yu., Ilyin V. A.
      Conformism // ABC of social psychologist-practitioner. - Moscow: Per Se, 2007. - 464 p. — 2000 copies. — ISBN 978-5-9292-0162-2. (unavailable link)
    8. Krichevsky R. L., Dubovskaya E. M.
      Social psychology of a small group: A textbook for universities. - M.: Aspect Press, 2001. - 318 p.
    9. Song G., Ma Q., Wu F., Li L.
      The Psychological Explanation of Conformity // Social Behavior & Personality: an International Journal. - 2012. - No. 40. Issue 8. - pp. 1365-1372.
    10. Fromm, Erich.
      Mechanisms of “escape” // Escape from freedom = Escape from Freedom. - AST, 2011. - 288 p. - (Philosophy). — 2000 copies. — ISBN 978-5-17-065381-2, ISBN 978-5-271-34452-7. Archived copy from October 26, 2011 on the Wayback Machine
    11. Philosophical Dictionary / edited by I. T. Frolov. — 4th edition. - Moscow: Politizdat, 1981. - 448 p. — 500,000 copies.
    12. Stefanenko T. G.
      Ethnopsychology: Textbook for universities. — 3rd ed., rev. and additional.. - M.: Aspect Press, 2004. - 368 p.
    13. Kondratyev M. Yu., Ilyin V. A.
      Nonconformism // ABC of social psychologist-practitioner. - Moscow: Per Se, 2007. - 464 p. — 2000 copies. — ISBN 978-5-9292-0162-2. (unavailable link)
    14. Nonconformism // Social psychology. Dictionary / Edited by M. Yu. Kondratyev; Editor-compiler L. A. Karpenko; Under the general editorship of A. V. Petrovsky. - Per Se, Rech, 2006. - T. 2. - 175 p. — (Psychological Lexicon. Encyclopedic Dictionary). — ISBN 5-9292-0141-2, ISBN 592680339X. (unavailable link)
    15. Petrovsky A.V.
      Personality. Activity. Team. - M.: Politizdat, 1982. - 255 p.

    Examples of conformism as a phenomenon

    Let's move on to consider specific examples of conformity.
    Probably most of us have been to a stadium at least once during a football match. We came to support our favorite team so that it could win against its opponent. When the ball entered the opponent’s goal, all the fans jumped up from their seats and shouted: “Goal,” throwing their hands up. This is a clear manifestation of herdism, that is, submission to a common instinct.


    Advertising as a social phenomenon almost always produces results for customers.
    An increase in sales of a particular product is often observed after a powerful advertising campaign among the population through the Internet and other media. In general, the role of the media in terms of strengthening conformity is simply enormous.
    People receive information and believe it without doubt. Some articles in newspapers, magazines and online publications are published at the request of individuals or pressure groups to create a positive image. The more people read and perceive the information, the greater the level of conformity of the group will be formed in relation to a specific object. There are many examples of opportunism in work collectives. For example, a new employee arrived. He doesn’t particularly like mass feasts, and it is customary for the company to periodically organize corporate parties.

    The newcomer is forced to submit to the influence of a social group represented by employees and take part in the holiday, although he himself is not a supporter of such a pastime. Here we can also mention the team method of work discussed above, when some of the employees have to obey the will of the majority.

    Pros and cons of conforming behavior

    Even such a negative phenomenon has its advantages. For example, with a relatively small amount of conformity, a person quickly adapts to a new social group. True, after some time you need to show yourself so as not to dissolve in the team.

    In crisis situations, it is very useful to leave your individuality and be like everyone else, otherwise the group may be completely destroyed or significant damage may be caused to it. And again, the main thing is not to forget your true individuality after the crisis is over.

    There are much more disadvantages. A person who chooses this behavior for a long time simply becomes an opportunist, loses his face and is unable to make decisions on his own in the future. Also, the conformist behavior of an entire nation becomes the foundation for the emergence of totalitarian regimes and sects.

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