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Differentiating between Informational and Normative Conformity

Question:

Describe what conformity is referring to how it is defined and the main theories that are involved and Critically analyse the idea of conformity, examining it from negative and positive perspective. Is there a relationship between them?

Conformity is the kind of an act which is related to changing of the behavior just to match with the responses of others. A few hundred years ago, Deutsch & Gerard, differentiated in between the two: informational and normal conformity.  The first was based on the wish to form the exact interpretation of the reality and the behavior.  And the second one was based on the goals to obtain approval socially from others (Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004). Conformity is generally taken as a criticized feature of the human belief formation. It is also considered as the negative influence over reliability (James, 2008). This report focuses on the definition of the conformity and its theories that are related to it. Also the analysis of the idea of conformity is done. 

Conformity is the act in which people will come up with the same behavior as others by changing attitudes and behaviors. It usually occurs in the small groups or in the society on the whole. It can either occur in front of others or individually too. The best example of this is people following social norms while watching TV or even when they are alone. It is generally associated with the young age people but it may occur in any ages of people (Bernheim & Exley, 2015).  The final explanation for it is social influence. People might conform according to others choices if they fear the society.

Social Comparison Theory

Social comparison is the habit for evaluating oneself and comparing to others. This is a significant source of behavior which is competitive. This theory states that the people who are driven by the basic drive upward, they improve their performance and at the same time they reduce discrepancies between them and other people’s level of performance.   This act of reaching upward and to do better than the best generates the competitive behavior. This competitive behavior is one of the types of social comparison (Garcia et al., 2013). This is the theory was stated by Festinger in 1950. His theory said that the communication actually at first serves to reach the agreement in the groups and the pressure for uniformity of the conversation is just based on the two reasons: the locomotion of the group makes it important and necessary that all the members should hold the same opinion and all individuals feel the need to agree on the social reality as the world will always validate the righteousness of every individual’s opinion. Hence, in this theory of social communication, Festinger focused on the significance of other people in formation of one’s opinion. There is always reason for people to engage in social comparisons. It is basically based on the motivational comparisons. People mostly rely on the objective standards for such kind of evaluations. Objective standards are not available and they are always very hard to achieve as well. Sometimes, people do not seek feedback from other people but they always try and maintain positive image within society. Now, just if this needs to end, people will need to purposefully engage themselves in the comparisons with others (Corcoran, 2011).

Types and Occurrence of Conformity

Social Influence Theory

Social theory is the umbrella concept which consists of the work of multiple theories. These theories are used in the structuring the thoughts and knowledge of consumer behavior. The theory of social influence can be stated as the act of balancing in between the interest of self and others. The other definition could be that a person takes his decisions by himself or by going on what other say about taking the decision (Cascio et al., 2015). The motives were also found out in the theory as to why people feel this need. It was found out that there were multiple motives for agreeing and disagreeing with people. There have been studies done on the changing attitudes of people when they come in contact with other people. Common reasons due to which attitude changes could be motivated by the normative concerns are:

  • Coherence ensuring and evaluation of the self.
  • To ensure that satisfactory relations are the results
  • To understand the issue in terms of influence.

The researchers of social influence assumed that normative and informational motives are linked with different mechanisms which generate the attitude change. The wish for desiring the normative expectations results in informational analysis and transitory judgment change. The recent studies have shown that the analysis of persuasion by providing the evidence of normative motives which affect the influence with the common set of information mechanisms. Finally, the participants when motivated to defend their position, they selected the arguments which they could read to support their view; they generated thoughts which were supportive of the position and denoted polarized attitudes. Challenge for investigating in future will always be to continue developing models of social and cognitive processes which are inclusive for capturing the attitude change in variety to informational settings with in which it occurs (Wood, 2000).

Conformity is an adaptive behavior of a certain way to conform to social pressure. It can be viewed in a positive way and sometimes in a negative way too. The positive side always allows people to feel as a part of a group when the people appear in a particular fashion or look and also the way they speak. This is known as normative influence. This influence occurs when people want to be liked by other people and hence, they conform. It can also be taken as a negative perspective when people bash what they would have accepted on their own ideas. Hence, conformity is based on the desire to be liked as well as it is also subjective. Another type of conformity is social influence which happens when people desire to always be correct. People who are in minority situations can make large use of conformity (Yu & Sun, 2013). When the behavior or belief stands unanimous, most people who are in the minority are treated as if they have a huge amount of pressure on them to conform and accept the particular type of lifestyle. Racial tensions are the same as this and this type of tension is also seen in the past. The unanimity is not that solid as it appears to be (Zafar, 2009). Hence, break in conformity is a good thing which proposes changes that are needed and it can be considered as a good thing to allow conformity.

Social Comparison Theory

Though the positive and negative aspects are same in a way that conformity is occurring because of people want to be a part of the group yet other than this relation, there is no link between both positive and negative conformity.

People who work as a social care workers comes in contact with the people who are in pain or have lost courage in life to love it even further. They look for support to be up and running again. Sometimes, in order to receive support from people whom a social worker is helping, he will always feel the need to conform. People who are vulnerable would want a social worker to listen to their miseries and just support them in a positive manner. This way a social worker is being able to help other people. It takes a lot of time and planning before providing the help a social worker is preparing for (Allott & Robb, 1998). Basically two things are required: ability for providing support to people and ability to identify the requirements that exists. Things will have to plan accordingly. Still, with no conformity sometimes, there is a lack of passion seen in a social worker by the people who are at the side of receiving the support. Hence, it can be taken as a positive approach.

To build a foundation of a social working ground, a social worker needs people who are aptly knowledgeable about the area of work and have the skills to make the NGO grow and help more people. People, who want to become a part of the NGO, will sometimes agree to other people because they will think that those people are more knowledgeable and skilled. This might be a misconception or a misunderstanding (Blythe, 2010). This can become a negative approach too. Hence, informational conformity can be negative sometimes.

Conclusion

This report focuses on the definition of the conformity and its theories. Normative conformity can be proven to be positive and at the same time informational conformity can be proven negative sometimes. While both have a similarity in conformity, both these conformities have different motives behind agreeing in front of the other people. To conform to people in a general sense, just to feel a part of the group is considered to be positive but to conform in any other case will become a lifestyle and this can damage the true image of a personality. The personality which is different from other but the psychology to be liked by others forces people to conform to others (Suhay, 2016). The theories on both positive and negative conformity are discussed yet it is difficult to tell completely if conformity is completely good or bad

References

Allott, M. & Robb, M., 1998. Understanding Health and Social Care: An Introductory Reader. SAGE.

Bernheim, D.B. & Exley, C.L., 2015. [Online] Available at: https://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/16-070_1d8d5b51-93dd-4906-b811-4436813d55db.pdf [Accessed 19 February 2018].

Blythe, C., 2010. [Online] Available at: https://eprints.lincoln.ac.uk/16186/1/__ddat01_staffhome_bjones_Downloads_46-130-1-PB.pdf [Accessed 19 February 2018].

Cascio, C.N., Scholz, C. & Falk, E.B., 2015. [Online] Available at: https://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1137&context=neuroethics_pubs [Accessed 19 February 2018].

Cialdini, R.B. & Goldstein, N.J., 2004. psych.ubc. [Online] Available at: https://www2.psych.ubc.ca/~schaller/Psyc591Readings/CialdiniGoldstein2004.pdf [Accessed 12 February 2018].

Corcoran, K., 2011. soco.uni-koeln. [Online] Available at: https://soco.uni-koeln.de/docs/Corcoran_Crusius_Mussweiler_2011_Social_Comparison.pdf [Accessed 13 February 2018].

Garcia, S.M., Tor, A. & Schiff, T.M., 2013. The Psychology of Competition. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 20(10), pp.1 -17.

James, K., 2008. kevinzollman. [Online] Available at: https://www.kevinzollman.com/uploads/5/0/3/6/50361245/zollman_-_social_structure_and_the_effects_of_conformity.pdf [Accessed 12 February 2018].

Suhay, E., 2016. [Online] Available at: https://www.democracy.uci.edu/newsevents/events/conference_files/suhay_2016_politicalconformity.pdf [Accessed 19 February 2018].

Wood, W., 2000. [Online] Available at: https://www3.psych.purdue.edu/~willia55/392F-'06/Wood-Influence.pdf [Accessed 19 February 2018].

Yu, R. & Sun, S., 2013. suitable rewards to motivate the different generations. [Online] Available at: suitable rewards to motivate the different generations/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0064530 [Accessed 19 February 2018].

Zafar, B., 2009. newyorkfed.org. [Online] Available at: https://www.newyorkfed.org/medialibrary/media/research/staff_reports/sr365.pdf [Accessed 19 February 2018].

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