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21.3: Normative Conformity- Conforming To Be Liked And To Avoid Rejection

  • Page ID
    75769
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    In other cases we conform not because we want to have valid knowledge but rather to meet the goal of belonging to and being accepted by a group we care about (Deutsch & Gerard, 1955). When we start smoking cigarettes or buy shoes we cannot really afford in order to impress others, we do these things not so much because we think they are the right things to do but rather because we want to be liked.

    RESEARCH FOCUS

    Imitation as Subtle Conformity

    Perhaps you have noticed in your own behavior a type of very subtle conformity—the tendency to imitate other people who are around you. Have you ever found yourself talking, smiling, or frowning in the same way that a friend does? Tanya Chartrand and John Bargh (1999) investigated whether the tendency to imitate others would occur even for strangers, and even in very short periods of time.

    In their first experiment, students worked on a task with another student, who was actually an experimental confederate. The two worked together to discuss photographs taken from current magazines. While they were working together, the confederate engaged in some unusual behaviors to see if the research participant would mimic them. Specifically, the confederate either rubbed his or her face or shook his or her foot. It turned out that the students did mimic the behavior of the confederate, by themselves either rubbing their own faces or shaking their own feet. And when the experimenters asked the participants if they had noticed anything unusual about the behavior of the other person during the experiment, none of them indicated awareness of any face rubbing or foot shaking.

    It is said that imitation is a form of flattery, and we might therefore expect that we would like people who imitate us. Indeed, in a second experiment, Chartrand and Bargh found exactly this. Rather than creating the behavior to be mimicked, in this study the confederate imitated the behaviors of the participant. While the participant and the confederate discussed the magazine photos, the confederate mirrored the posture, movements, and mannerisms displayed by the participant.

    As you can see in Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\), the participants who had been mimicked liked the other person more and indicated that they thought the interaction had gone more smoothly, in comparison with the participants who had not been imitated.

    Behaviorism_1.gif
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Participants who had been mimicked indicated that they liked the person who had imitated them more and that the interaction with that person had gone more smoothly, in comparison with participants who had not been mimicked. [This work, “Imitation and Likeability,” is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 by Judy Schmitt. It is a derivative of “Figure 7.1” by University of Minnesota, which is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0. Data are from Chartrand and Bargh (1999).]

    Imitation is an important part of social interaction. We easily and frequently mimic others without being aware that we are doing so. We may communicate to others that we agree with their viewpoints by mimicking their behaviors, and we tend to get along better with people with whom we are well “coordinated.” We even expect people to mimic us in social interactions, and we become distressed when they do not (Dalton et al., 2010). This unconscious conformity may help explain why we hit it off immediately with some people and never get it together with others (Chartrand & Dalton, 2009; Tickle-Degnen & Rosenthal, 1990, 1992). ■

    Normative conformity occurs when we express opinions or behave in ways that help us to be accepted or that keep us from being isolated or rejected by others. When we engage in normative conformity we conform to social norms—socially accepted beliefs about what we do or should do in particular social contexts (Cialdini, 1993; Sherif, 1936; Sumner, 1906).

    In contrast to informational conformity, in which the attitudes or opinions of the individual change to match that of the influencers, the outcome of normative conformity often represents public conformity rather than private acceptance. Public conformity is a superficial change in behavior (including the public expression of opinions) that is not accompanied by an actual change in one’s private opinion. Conformity may appear in our public behavior even though we may believe something completely different in private. We may obey the speed limit or wear a uniform to our job (behavior) to conform to social norms and requirements, even though we may not necessarily believe that it is appropriate to do so (opinion). We may use drugs with our friends without really wanting to, and without believing it is really right, because our friends are all using drugs. However, behaviors that are originally performed out of a desire to be accepted (normative conformity) may frequently produce changes in beliefs to match them, and the result becomes private acceptance. Perhaps you know someone who started smoking to please his friends but soon convinced himself that it was an acceptable thing to do.

    Although in some cases conformity may be purely informational or purely normative, in most cases the goals of being accurate and being accepted go hand-in-hand, and therefore informational and normative conformity often occur at the same time. When soldiers obey their commanding officers, they probably do it both because others are doing it (normative conformity) and because they think it is the right thing to do (informational conformity). It has been argued that the distinction between informational and normative conformity is more apparent than real and that it may not be possible to fully differentiate them (Turner, 1991).


    This page titled 21.3: Normative Conformity- Conforming To Be Liked And To Avoid Rejection is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Kate Votaw.

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