Social Psychology

Student Learning Program

Chapter 9: Conformity to social norms (pp. 309314)

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In this topic

  1. The Formation of Social Norms (pp. 309312)
  2. Public Versus Private Conformity (pp. 312314)
    1. Conformity and false confessions in the interrogation room
    2. Conformity and culture
The Formation of Social Norms

Groups have influence on ambiguous (Sherif, 1936, see SP p. 309) and unambiguous situations (Asch, 1951, 1955, see SP p. 310); people often adopt the opinion of other group members and converge to social norms.

These social norms reflect group evaluations of what is right and wrong.

As a result of converging to groups' opinions, people become more alike when interacting in groups.

Public Versus Private Conformity

Conformity is the term used for the convergence of individuals' thoughts, feelings, and behavior towards a group's norms.

Private conformity occurs when people truly believe that the group is right and even occurs in the absence of group members.

Public conformity occurs when we are pressured and feel we do not have a choice other than to conform to group norms. When publicly conforming, people pretend to agree, but privately think the group is wrong.

Conformity and false confessions in the interrogation room

Uncertain people are more likely to conform, even when it means confessing to a crime. Public conformity is more likely to occur when a witness also agrees.

People can privately conform without realizing it.

Conformity and culture

In individualistic cultures, conformity is seen as something negative; whereas in collectivistic cultures, conformity is seen as a social glue. Accordingly, the degree of conformity is higher in collectivistic cultures than it is in individualistic cultures.

Case study: Conformity and culture

So what does this mean?

People conform to the opinion of other group members and converge to social norms, because of their need to master the world and the need to be connected by others. Private conformity occurs when people truly believe that the group is right, whereas public conformity occurs when we are pressured to conform to group norms. When publicly conforming, people still privately think the group is wrong. The degree of conformity is higher in collectivistic cultures, where they view conformity as a social glue, than it is in individualistic cultures, where conformity is seen as something negative.

Next topic

The dual functions of conformity to norms: Mastery and connectedness

In this chapter

  1. Chapter 9 introduction
  2. Conformity to social norms
  3. The dual functions of conformity to norms: Mastery and connectedness
  4. How groups form norms: Processes of social influence
  5. Conformity pressure:Undermining true consensus
  6. Minority influence: The value of dissent
  7. Chapter overview (PDF)
  8. Fill-in-the-blanks
  9. Multiple-choice questions