Conformity is the act of matching attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors to group norms, politics or being like-minded. Norms are implicit, specific rules, shared by a group of individuals, that guide their interactions with others.
Harvard psychologist Herbert Kelman identified three major types of conformity:
- Compliance is public conformity, while possibly keeping one's own original beliefs for yourself. Compliance is motivated by the need for approval and the fear of being rejected.
- Identification is conforming to someone who is liked and respected, such as a celebrity or a favorite uncle. This can be motivated by the attractiveness of the source, and this is a deeper type of conformism than compliance.
- Internalization is accepting the belief or behavior and conforming both publicly and privately, if the source is credible. It is the deepest influence on people, and it will affect them for a long time.
According to Deutsch and Gérard (1955), conformity results from a motivational conflict (between the fear of being socially rejected and the wish to say what we think is correct) that leads to normative influence, and a cognitive conflict (others create doubts in what we think) which leads to informational influence.
A explanation of how the peer pressure process works, called “the identity shift effect,” is introduced by social psychologist, Wendy Treynor, who weaves together Festinger's two seminal social-psychological theories (on dissonance, which addresses internal conflict, and social comparison, which addresses external conflict) into a unified whole. According to Treynor's original “identity shift effect” hypothesis, the peer pressure process works in the following way:
Milieu control is a term popularized by psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton to describe tactics that control environment and human communication through the use of social pressure and group language; such tactics may include dogma, protocols, innuendo, slang, and pronunciation, which enables group members to identify other members, or to promote cognitive changes in individuals.
Milieu control involves the control of communication within a group environment, that also may (or may not) result in a significant degree of isolation from surrounding society. Additionally, Milieu control "includes other techniques to restrict members' contact with the outside world and to be able to make critical, rational, judgments about information.". Lifton originally used "milieu control" to describe brainwashing and mind control, but the term has since been applied to other contexts.
A literal "bandwagon" is a wagon that carries a musical ensemble, or band, during the course of a parade, circus, or other entertainment event. The metaphorical use of the term bandwagon in reference to this phenomenon began in 1848. Individuals are highly influenced by the pressure and norms exerted by groups. As an idea or belief increases in popularity, people are more likely to adopt it; when seemingly everyone is doing something, there is an incredible pressure to conform. Individuals' impressions of public opinion or preference can originate from several sources.
The bandwagon effect works through a self-reinforcing mechanism, and can spread quickly and on a large-scale through a positive feedback loop, whereby the more who are affected by it, the more likely other people are to be affected by it too. A new concept that is originally promoted by only a single advocate or a minimal group of advocates can quickly grow and become widely popular, even when sufficient supporting evidence is lacking. What happens is that a new concept gains a small following, which grows until it reaches a critical mass, until for example it begins being covered by mainstream media, at which point a large-scale bandwagon effect begins, which causes more people to support this concept, in increasingly large numbers.
Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Cohesiveness, or the desire for cohesiveness, in a group may produce a tendency among its members to agree at all costs.
Irving Janis pioneered the initial research on the groupthink theory. He does not cite Whyte, but coined the term again by analogy with "doublethink" and similar terms that were part of the newspeak vocabulary in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. He initially defined groupthink as follows:
To make groupthink testable, Irving Janis devised eight symptoms indicative of groupthink:
Type I: Overestimations of the group — its power and morality
- Illusions of invulnerability creating excessive optimism and encouraging risk taking.
- Unquestioned belief in the morality of the group, causing members to ignore the consequences of their actions.
Type II: Closed-mindedness
- Rationalizing warnings that might challenge the group's assumptions.
- Stereotyping those who are opposed to the group as weak, evil, biased, spiteful, impotent, or stupid.
Type III: Pressures toward uniformity
- Self-censorship of ideas that deviate from the apparent group consensus.
- Illusions of unanimity among group members, silence is viewed as agreement.
- Direct pressure to conform placed on any member who questions the group, couched in terms of "disloyalty"
- Mindguards— self-appointed members who shield the group from dissenting information.
A very cohesive group abides with all group norms; but whether or not groupthink arises is dependent on what the group norms are. If the group encourages individual dissent and alternative strategies to problem solving, it is likely that groupthink will be avoided even in a highly cohesive group. This means that high cohesion will lead to groupthink only if one or both of the other antecedents is present, situational context being slightly more likely than structural faults to produce groupthink.
In psychology, the Asch conformity experiments or the Asch paradigm were a series of studies directed by Solomon Asch studying if and how individuals yielded to or defied a majority group and the effect of such influences on beliefs and opinions.
A research question examined by Asch was whether varying the magnitude of majority "wrongness" affected subject conformity to group norms. To answer this question, the difference between the reference line and three comparison lines was systematically increased to determine if there was a point where the extremity of the majority's error affected subject conformity.
The authors failed to find a point at which subject conformity to the majority was completely eliminated, even when the disparity between lines was increased to 7 inches.