Thursday, September 24, 2009

Conformity and Persuasion

By Bryce Davis

Have you ever felt out of place in a group of friends? Their clothes look different than yours, and you listen to a complete different genre of music. All you want to do is fit in with your "new friends" so you decide to tweak your style a bit to look like them, and maybe even start listing to music other than what you are used to. If anything in your life sounds similar to this, you are simply bringing out your need to conform. Conformity is almost like a disease that affects anyone and everyone whether we like it or not. There can be nothing wrong with conformity; it's just simply a matter of an individual wanting to belong. After all, the one thing all human beings have in common is the need to fit in somewhere in life.

Conformity is the desire to go along with the norms of people in a certain group so you feel accepted as part of that group. In life it is always nice to have someone to relate to. Conforming isn't always a bad thing; it's sort of a way we find our true selves.

Sometimes conformity can happen without people even realizing it is happening. Take the popular teen movie "Mean Girls" into perspective. The main character of the film, Cadi has just moved to the United States from a completely different culture in Africa. She stumbles upon many different cliques in her new high school including band geeks, jocks, Asians, and the most popular group known as the plastics. The Plastics represent what everyone wants to be; popular, rich, and pretty. Unfortunately, the plastics are also the meanest clique in school. The movies heroin Cadi slowly and unknowingly falls into their clique and become known as the meanest girl in school without her even realizing until the conclusion of the movie. This movie gives a good example of how can also be not such a good thing when peer pressure gets thrown into the mix.

When conforming to a group, you must follow the rules of the group. Rules aren't necessarily something like you would have to follow in a classroom. It can deal with language, attitude, clothing styles, and even music. Relating to the film Mean Girls again, The Plastics had their own set of rules that they all had to follow including certain days designated to the color pink or even how they are supposed to wear their hair. There can be two different types of people in a group when it comes to rules. One would be the in-group members who "follow" the rules by keeping to the identity of the group. The other type would be what is known as the peripheral members who try to impress the in-group members.

There are three different types of conformity that have been revealed by a Harvard psychologist by the name of Herbert Kelman. The first is known as compliance which deals with an individual conforms to the public and still sticks to his or her own beliefs. The second type is known as identification. This type states that an individual conforms to someone who is well liked. The third type is known as internalization which specifies how someone would conform personally and publicly.

Now, you may be wondering how all of this relates to propaganda and persuasion. One key word that rings in my mind is Influence. Influence is what persuasion is all about. If you want to gain trust from someone in a group you have to influence them to do so. In our everyday lives we are being influenced whether it deals with the high school cliques we have lived through similar to those in Mean Girls or even in the job market with different employees and co-workers. Conformity can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing, but one thing is for sure that we will continue to live our daily lives conforming to find out where exactly fit in.


The Need for Conformity. (n.d.). Retrieved September 22, 2009, from

Michaels, L. (Producer), & Waters, M. (Director). (2004). Mean Girls [Motion picture]. United States: Paramount Pictures.

Conformity Psychology . (n.d.). Retrieved September 22, 2009, from ple in point.

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