What is Social Conformity ?

The society maintains its order by means of the Normative system .
Normativity is the phenomenon in human societies of designating some actions or outcomes as good or desirable or permissible and others as bad or undesirable or impermissible. A norm in this normative sense means a standard for evaluating or making judgments about behavior or outcomes.

Normative system refers to the system of rules which the people are expected to accept , obey and appreciate .

When the people act in consonance with the norms they become “Conformists “.

People often choose to conform to society rather than to pursue personal desires – because it is often easier to follow the path others have made already, rather than forging a new one.

Norms which are implicit, specific rules, shared by a group of individuals .
Conformity is action that is oriented to social norms and falls within the range of behaviour permitted by the norms .

Hence , conformity is the act of matching attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors to group norms.
Unwillingness to conform carries the risk of social rejection. Conformity strongly affects humans of all ages.

Conformity implies behaving in accordance with the norms .
It implies that the individual consciously approves of a particular behaviour and is presented to follow the same .


Types of Conformity :-

Kelman stated three different types of conformity:

Compliance (or group acceptance)

According to Kelman, , this occurs
when an individual accepts influence because he hopes to achieve a favorable reaction from another person or group. He adopts the induced behavior because….he expects to gain specific rewards or approval and avoid specific punishment or disapproval by conformity “

Compliance stops when there are no group pressures to conform, and is therefore a temporary behavior change.

Internalization (genuine acceptance of group norms)
According to Kelman , this occurs ‘

when an individual accepts influence because the content of the induced behavior – the ideas and actions of which it is composed – is intrinsically rewarding. He adopts the induced behavior because it is congruent [consistent] with his value system”

This is the deepest level of conformity where the beliefs of the group become part of the individual’s own belief system. This means the change in behavior is permanent. Internalization always involves public and private conformity. A person publicly changes their behavior to fit in with the group, while also agreeing with them privately.

Identification (or group membership)

According to Kelman , this occurs

when an individual accepts influence because he wants to establish or maintain a satisfying self-defining relationship with another person or group.”

Individuals conform to the expectations of a social role, e.g.doctorsv, lawyers , nurses, police officers. It is similar to compliance as there does not have to be a change in private opinion.

Causes of Conformity:-

Harry Johnson established a few causes of Conformity to the social norms .
Some of them are :-

Socialisation :- it is through the process of socialisation that social norms are internalised by the individuals. Hence , norms become an inseparable part of their personality . Proper social training always supports conformity.

Hierarchy of Norms :- Norms are ranked in order of precedence . The hierarchy of norms as well their time and place aspect is part of culture .
For instance , a soldier may be put to such a conflicting situation in which either he will have to attend to the needs of the ailing mother who is on the deathbed or rush to the battle ground to attend to the urgent call of the army .
The hierarchy values and norms of his society help the soldier to make the appropriate decision.

It is through the socialisation hierarchy aspects of the norms are learnt . If the different aspects of the culture system are properly integrated an individual will have no difficulty in following the expected forms of behaviour .

Social Control :- Various formal as well as Informal means of social control help the socialised actor to imagine and anticipate what would happen to him if he violated the norms . Thus sanctions lead to conformity even though they are not actually applied .

Ideology :- People’s conformity to group norms depends to some extent upon the ideas and ideology that they hold . The norms partly express broader values that are more purely and precisely emphasized in ideology . Ideology strengthens faith in the existing system. Ideology adds to the norms themselves a kind of an “Intellectual ” support . Hence helps to motivate people to conform to its norms.

Vested Interest :- Conformity to social norms does not always depend upon idealistic motives alone . Sometimes , due to vested interest or self – interest also people conform to them . Norms define rights as well as obligations . They protect our rights also .
Some of the rights protect the exclusion of other members . Those who enjoy such advantages are likely to be satisfied with the norms that protect them . Hence , they support these norms with a greater sense of conviction than the disadvantaged persons . Property rights are a good example in this regard.

Other causes

Robert Bierstedt gives four causes for the question – ” why we conform to the norms “
Some causes are :-

• Indoctrination :- We conform to the norms simply because we have been indoctrinated to do so . Indoctrinated refers to the process of injecting into the personality of the child the group norms . The norms that are indoctrinated become a part and parcel of the personality of the individual. Conformity to the norms becomes very natural because of indoctrination.

Habituation :- What is customary is likely to become habitual in many cases . Some norms are indoctrinated in the beginning , but they become habitual practices afterwards.
We are taught to wash our hands and mouth before and after meals but after a while it becomes a matter of habit . Repetition makes a practice a habit and most of the folkways come to be rooted in the individual in this way .
Habituation reinforces the norms and guarantees the regularity of conformity.

Utility :- Norms help us interact with others with much comfort and ease . We appreciate the unity of norms and hence we conform to them . In many social situations we realised the utility of the norms to which we conform.

Group Identification :– We conform to the norms of our own social groups rather than to those of groups to which we do not belong . We thus conform to the norms because conformity is a means of group identification . By conformity to the norms we express our identification with the groups .
Sometimes , some groups even conform to some irritating folkways because they are their own and they identify them with their society and their own social groups.


Social Control and Conformity

Social control ” refers to various ways and means by which a group or society attempts to achieve social order . Social Order could be achieved by making the people accept and follow the group norms . Behaving in accordance with norms or rules can be referred to as Conformity.

Thus , one of the main purposes of social control is conformity . Social control also involves the processes and means whereby deviations from social norms are limited by the group.

Conformity to institutionalised norms is ,of course , ‘normal ‘. The individual having internalised the norms , feels something like to need to conform.

Both internalised need and sanctions are effective in bringing about conformity .
Conformity is achieved by two different ways –
: Immediate conformity which is the result of social pressure or control
: Long term result of conformity which is the product of socialisation .

Social factors constrain the individual to follow the group pattern . The reason an individual greatly values group life is because the group provides us many advantages and satisfaction.

The social control towards conformity is always in terms of the prevailing norms .
Many individuals who don’t agree with certain norms accept and conform to them outwardly . Those who are not convinced of them lack the power to resist them .

Thus in conformity we find two factors which may or may not be consistent :compliance and conviction .

“Conformity without conviction occurs when the individual cannot withdraw from the group or values much his membership in the group and does not wish to offend or is afraid of the consequences of non Conformity. “

Group norms are actually group standards which the members are encouraged to imitate or follow . But some deviation is bound to be there in every group.

As the deviation from the norm becomes greater the more serious the offence becomes in the eyes of the group and the more serves becomes the penalty .

Conformity influences the formation and maintenance of social norms, and helps societies function smoothly and predictably by the self-elimination of behaviors seen as contrary to unwritten rules.

Hence, for social control it’s important to have social conformity where deviations from social norms are limited by the group .

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