Discuss the social psychology research that explains conformity in social groups

Essay by DirinUniversity, Bachelor's December 2003

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Conformity refers to the tendency for people to change their perceptions, opinions and behaviour in ways that are consistent with group norms. People do not always make individual decisions, the majority of the time they look to others to guide their thoughts and actions. When looking to others, there are two main factors that people may pay attention to. Firstly, they may be interested in what society says they should do or think in a particular situation. The second factor that may be taken into consideration is what other people would actually do in a certain situation.

This essay will look at the different research done into conformity. It will also use this research to explain the different theories that psychologists have formed as to why people feel the need that they need to comply when they are in a group situation.

Psychologists have put forward many theories as to why people conform and have completed studies to try to confirm their ideas.

Two of the first people to actually put a name to and explain why people conform were Deutsch and Gerard in 1955 (as cited in Gross, Richard, 1996). They said that people conform when in a group because the group can have two types of influence: normative influence and informational influence. Normative influence is when an individual conforms because of a fear of rejection by the group even though they do not necessarily believe the group's views. Informational influence is when different members of the group all put their thoughts in and you begin to believe and agree with them. Kelman (1958) agreed with normative influence although he did not have a name for it. Kelman, along with Mann (1969) also believed in informational influence although they called it internalisation.

Cottrell also put forward a theory as...