We all want to feel accepted in society in order to build on our confidence and self-esteem and allow us to grow as people. In order for this to happen we conform to a way in which we deem will make us fit in society.
David Myers (1999) defined conformity as “A change in behaviour or belief as a result of real or imagined group pressure”. This demonstrates how society’s judgements have a direct impact on the way we behave.
There are five types of social influences, which impact on our lives unconsciously but are innate in our behaviour, in order to gain acceptance. This includes compliance, identification, internalisation, normative social influence and informational social influence.
Compliance is where we may publicly conform to a belief or behaviour whilst in the company of others and keep our private views to ourselves. We don’t want to feel like the odd ones out. For example: if you are with a group of people who support Manchester United Football Team you may be unlikely to say that you support Chelsea – even if you are asked directly! This is because you want to feel accepted in the group, demonstrating how society influences our behaviour.
Identification is where we adopt certain views or behaviour publicly but these are only temporary with certain peers. For example: A teenager may use swear words in front of his or her friends, in order to appear “cool” however when with their grandparents they would refrain from using such foul language. This is because it is deemed disrespectful and inappropriate, so again highlights the way society influences our behaviour.
Internalization is where your belief systems change permanently, even without a certain peer group, which may have caused you to adopt certain values. For example: It can be seen when you convert to a different religion, whereby a group of people who follow a faith may have convinced you that the particular religion has the answers that you were searching for. Therefore you convert to the new religion but continue to follow the faith without their guidance throughout your life.
Normative social influences come from the desire to be accepted and most importantly liked by others. When starting school or college we all want to make friends and feel apart of the community; without these friendships it would be a very unhappy time in education. Therefore we conform to a way that we think people will accept us. Have you ever agonised over what to wear to a party or other social event because you want to feel apart of the group. Some of us will phone friends or family members to find our what they are wearing and then base our outfit on what they wear. If you are guilty of this then you have conformed to normative social influence!
The last theory is informational social influence where the desire to be right impacts our behaviour. It is where we look to others whom we deem to be correct and replicate their behaviour. For example: When out to dinner and being unsure about which cutlery to eat ones meal with, you may look to someone who has begun eating and use the same fork or spoon as they do. It shows the power of social influence, we are desperate not to be wrong and to be liked!
Therefore society influences our behaviour because we want to feel accepted and most importantly liked! No one wants to feel the odd one out, so we conform to particular behaviours and characteristics as a way of avoiding this.
Reference: Psychology AS, Cardwell Clark Meldrum, Fourth Edition.