Conformity is the act of matching attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors to group norms. Norms are implicit, unsaid rules shared by a group of individuals, that guide their interactions with others and among society or social group. This tendency to conform occurs in small groups and/or society as a whole, and may result from subtle unconscious influences, or direct and overt social pressure. Conformity can occur in the presence of others, or when an individual is alone. For example, people tend to follow social norms when eating or watching television, even when alone.

People often conform from a desire for security within a group—typically a group of a similar age, culture, religion, or educational status. This is often referred to as groupthink: a pattern of thought characterized by self-deception, forced manufacture of consent, and conformity to group values and ethics, which ignores realistic appraisal of other courses of action. Unwillingness to conform carries the risk of social rejection. Conformity is often associated with adolescence and youth culture, but strongly affects humans of all ages.

Although peer pressure may manifest negatively, conformity can have good or bad effects depending on the situation. Driving on the correct side of the road could be seen as beneficial conformity. With the right environmental influence, conforming, in early childhood years, allows one learn and thus, adopt the appropriate behaviours necessary to interact and develop correctly within one's society. Conformity influences formation and maintenance of social norms, and helps societies function smoothly and predictably via the self-elimination of behaviors seen as contrary to unwritten rules. In this sense it can be perceived as (though not proven to be) a positive force that prevents acts that are perceptually disruptive or dangerous.

As conformity is a group phenomenon, factors such as group size, unanimity, cohesion, status, prior commitment, and public opinion help determine the level of conformity an individual displays.

Read more about Conformity:  Social Responses, Varieties, Minority Influence, See Also

Famous quotes containing the word conformity:

    ... the self respect of individuals ought to make them demand of their leaders conformity with an agreed-upon code of ethics and moral conduct.
    Mary Barnett Gilson (1877–?)

    Belonging to a group can provide the child with a variety of resources that an individual friendship often cannot—a sense of collective participation, experience with organizational roles, and group support in the enterprise of growing up. Groups also pose for the child some of the most acute problems of social life—of inclusion and exclusion, conformity and independence.
    Zick Rubin (20th century)

    What right have you to hold up this obstacle to my understanding you, to your understanding me! You did not invent it; it was imposed on you. Examine your authority. Even Christ, we fear, had his scheme, his conformity to tradition, which slightly vitiates his teaching. He had not swallowed all formulas. He preached some mere doctrines.
    Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)