Conformity is a type of social influence which creates a change in behavior or beliefs in an individual so that they can fit in with a specific group. This change happens as a response to either real or imagined pressure and expectations that come from the group. It may involve the physical presence of other people, the pressure of societal norms, or a general aspiration to achieve a specific level of success.
Group pressures can take on many different forms. Teasing, criticism, and bullying are all common methods used to generate conformity and society. Some people make changes because of this pressure because they want to be liked or feel like they belong. Others may embrace this concept as a way to ensure that they are in the majority position for significant decisions that must be made.
Three different types of conformity are currently recognized: compliance, internalization, and identification. They can be either positive or negative influences, depending on what the outcome of the group wants with the individual.
These are the pros and cons of conformity and society that are essential to review.
List of the Pros of Conformity in Society
1. Conformity can help you abandon your bad habits.
Peer groups can do an excellent job of helping you remove the bad habits from your life. If you happen to always arrive late for an event or meeting, then the pressure placed by the group to make changes in your life that stop this issue can help you make positive changes to your behaviors. Even if the only reason why you make these changes is to be liked by your peer group, the outcome still creates a positive result in your life.
2. Conformity helps you to reveal the unknown.
There are many children who grew up under the watchful eye of their parents in the shelter and home life. They were not exposed to the pros and cons of each decision that the world offers. When are you coming to contact with your peers from this type of environment, you will discover what they like and what they dislike. You will then become familiar with their reactions in specific situations. This process gives you more information about human behavioral patterns, which can lead to insights in your own life. It will offer to help you make better decisions because you have more information to use.
3. Conformity can help you develop good habits.
People are observational. Whether you’re at work, at school, or even a religious gathering, you are observing the positive traits in the personalities that surround you. What you experience in the circumstances will motivate you to create positive habits in your own daily routine that generate positive results. If you see someone who walks their dog around the neighborhood every morning for exercise, that might inspire you to do something similar.
When we see other people making positive choices, we want to join along with that activity because the benefits of a positive outcome outweigh the risks of experiencing an adverse circumstance.
4. Conformity aids in rule enforcement.
Every society has rules for people to follow for a specific purpose. If we were to live somewhere allowed anyone to set their own expectations for what their life should be, then we would create a challenging place where it would be difficult for anyone to find success. The rules of a society are enforced through the processes of conformity. We work with one another to make sure that everyone has a fair chance to meet their goals. We create penalties for those who do not follow those rules to ensure harmony can occur.
This process happens in every society. Even friendships set rules that have consequences if someone breaks them. We place pressure on one another because it helps us to succeed, while we also get an opportunity to help everyone else find success too.
5. Conformity offers protection against outside threats.
When someone conforms to society, they receive protection from other outside threats that could impact their lives and negative ways. We know for a fact that there is strength in numbers. Our ancestors had to form societies to protect themselves against wild animals and other tribes. Today, we do the same thing by developing nations, communities, and neighborhoods to ensure our mutual survival. When each member stays strong and conforms set the expectations of everyone else, there was a natural wall of protection that forms.
6. Conformity creates a safety net.
There will always be people who choose not to conform to society. Those that do choose to take this action help those who decide not to follow the rules because they continue to live within a realm of social acceptability. This activity creates a safe place for everyone to live. There are numerous ways that these structures are implemented, with many of them administered through social programs that are overseen by the government. We often agree that our personal definition of success is due to the ability we have as a group to care for everyone when they are in need.
7. Conformity makes the work easier for everyone.
The goal of conforming to society is one that seeks eternal harmony. People who choose to take this path want to see their society continue to benefit others in positive ways. One of the outcomes of this process is to distribute work fairly throughout the group. Everyone pays their fair share in productivity, taxation, and even volunteerism. The group sees that there is a greater good which can be achieved when everyone works together to accomplish a goal.
List of the Cons of Conformity in Society
1. Conformity often hampers personal progress.
The company that a person chooses to keep becomes a direct reflection of the success that they’re able to achieve. If you surround yourself with positive influences, then your desire for conformity will create beneficial outcomes for you. The opposite occurs if you surround yourself with negative peers. Bad influences can ruin your chances at success in a variety of ways. Students might find that conformity, for example, leads them to smoke or use drugs against their will because they want to be excepted by their peer group. That can lead to health issues and poor grades.
2. Conformity increases the chances of depression.
The fear of social rejection is something that most people face at least once in their lives. It creates a feeling that compels you to blindly follow the people that you want to have like you. Most don’t even give it a second thought. The moment that you express an opinion in front of this group that doesn’t jive with what the majority believes is right, then there is a good chance that negative influences will be placed upon you to change your mind. If you succumb to this pressure, then the emotional reaction in either direction increases the chances of depression forming over time.
3. Conformity causes you to lose your identity.
The actions that groups play some individuals to make them conform creates a dangerous issue because it forces a loss of personal identity. Each person is uniquely different from every other. You might choose to go to a party and be the designated driver because you don’t like alcohol. If your friend starts teasing you because you’re not drinking like they are, however, then you can be coaxed into doing something that you don’t want to do. That means you’re behaving in a way that is contrary to what your value systems dictate.
4. Conformity doesn’t encourage change in the world.
Although conformity in society encourages individuals to make changes that bring them closer to the majority, the reality of this process is that it doesn’t impact mobile societies. We do not experience change as a group because there is a preference to not “rock the boat.” There must be people who are unwilling to change in any circumstance to drive results.
You must have access to a system of checks and balances within our society to help determine a fair definition of equality. If everyone were to conform to do the same thing all the time without questioning the rules, it would be challenging to find moments of innovation.
5. Conformity can create an unjust world.
We want to think that all societies are based on the overall good that humanity can achieve. The reality of life is that things are very different. All one has to do is look at the impact of Nazi Germany on the world in the 20th century to understand that power can be used for evil just as it can be used for good. There is no excuse for someone to conform to society when the outcome harms others. Many in Germany during World War II set they participated in the Holocaust because they were following orders. That’s conformity.
6. Conformity can lead to dependence.
When people choose to conform to groups instead of turning their own course, they begin to give things over to the Society to which they want to belong. This process often occurs without the person even giving that element of their life a second thought. Although it is a good thing for society to experience the talents and skills that someone can bring to it, there must also be a consideration for independent thought. Blindly handing over your assets for social gratification only benefits the people who receive those items.
7. Conformity often leads to apathy.
The desire for conformity on an individual level often creates a group apathy that becomes prevalent in society. The people who try to conform often feel like they can do the same things that the groups they observe are doing in the current moment. When they are on able to achieve that success, they look to a higher power to handle whatever problems they feel are impacting their efforts. Blind trust always creates problems in a society. It also generates feelings were people decide that issues are not their problem. They decided that everyone else should handle the situation and place pressure on others just as their preferred groups place it on them.
8. Conformity encourages a lack of diversity.
The action of conformity in society will always reduce diversity. People will be getting filtering toward groups that make them feel comfortable. Groups will then combine with others to create communities that share like-minded approaches. Communities get together into parties that share similar platforms that seek out a specific definition of success. Without checks and balances on the systems, the guidelines and believes that people would have would eventually all become the same. There would be no color in the world.
The pros and cons of conformity in society show us that we need people who “go along to get along” just like we require some individuals to have the courage to step out on their own. When we have both groups active at any relationship level, then there is balance to the group. Conformists cannot exist without others who are unwilling to make changes. There must be rules – and we must have rule breakers. Which one are you?
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.