The Pack Mentality Of Conformity
How the dangers of peer pressure influence behavior and increase your chances of conforming to social norms.
Image text: To be silent is to be complicit
It is not always safer to be in a group. Depending on the circumstances, group activities can lead to peer pressure and trouble. Movies like I know what you did last summer highlight how pack mentality can pressure people into questionable morality.
Discrimination can be a group sport. Even if some people disagree, when you are outnumbered, sometimes you cave in. You mimic the behavior of those around you and blend in for survival.
The evolution of humanity has bred negative results in multiple categories of life. Race, gender, income level, and disability are only some of the marginalized groups that experience societal pressure to conform to the majority. These factors also dictate your level of privilege.
Discrimination, prejudice, and social influence determine where you stand in society. The belief of the majority rules and the pressure to conform increases.
The way that humans interact in a social environment is dependent upon each person’s status according to societal standards.
Think about how you behave alone and how you behave with your friends or coworkers. Putting on the mask is how peer pressure changes social dynamics and outcomes in scenarios.
Simply put, discrimination is actively taken steps to prevent access because of perceived status in society.
Prejudice is the implicit inclination to dislike or hate someone based on race, gender, disability, financial status, or sexual orientation.
Discrimination takes action, but prejudice is hidden in the confines of the mind. Even though you cannot see prejudice it shows its face in people’s actions.
Social influence is characterized by the interaction and perception of a group. The influence includes favoritism or sharing a common purpose.
Conformity refers to how people respond to authority and the hierarchy in group interactions. Sometimes groups of people can become interdependent and give up individual freedoms to adhere to the groups’ desires.
Psychology and you
Studies of how groups interact were conducted over the years yielded results on the topic of interracial interactions.
According to Merrit, MacCormack, Stein, Lindquist, & Muscatell 2021, the “result confirmed that there are consistent differences in neural activation during social cognition corresponding to whether the target of such cognition is an in-group vs outgroup member” (pg.909).
Groups of people will alter their behavioral patterns based on external interactions and stimuli. In the case of this study, the subjects were two distinct groups. The caucasian subjects were not necessarily openly discriminating against the black subjects. However, the prejudice was evident in the altered behavior of the group.
Behaviorism is a psychological theory that can be used to account for the changes in group behavior. The theory of behaviorism relies on the idea that all actions are dedicated to external conditioning. The conditioning of the group will be impacted by how the individuals fit into the hierarchy of society.
People of privilege are commonly seen as male, cis-gendered, white, and seemly rich.
Therefore, that majority privilege becomes the standard operating system, especially in groups, since individuals are preconditioned to favor certain races and genders.
Societal hierarchy is already established, and the pressure to conform increases in marginalized communities. Facing discrimination and prejudice means that marginalized communities have to constantly fight for equality. Some of that fight includes peer pressure to mimic the majority in an attempt to be treated fairly.
Specific things like speech, hair, clothes, belief systems, and other social norms become forced upon others.
The impact of pressure
The pressure to conform leads to several behaviors that do not match how they act in private.
The bystander effect is noted in social psychological theory to impact a person’s willingness to help someone in crisis (King, 2019).
For example, on a street, a person is walking into traffic. A group of people is watching the woman wander into danger but do nothing. Instead, one member of the group takes out a cell phone to film an imminent accident. The rest of the group does the same and the woman receives no assistance even though the people are capable of saving the victim.
Following the group and avoiding contradictions even in an emergency is an example of social perception. Social perception allows a person to be a chameleon if so desired. The bystander effect is a sad symptom of this chameleon-like behavior.
The lesson for everyone
Be yourself. Take the time to determine your morality and don’t allow outside perceptions or pressure to choose how you act.
Self-reflection and the motivation for self-improvement is the only way to fight conformity. Equality takes independent thinkers that are willing to act against the social norms with the goal of inclusion, diversity, and equality for all.
King, L. (2019). Experience psychology (4th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw Hill Education
Orginal content by Tas for Psy 300 course 2022.
Merritt, C. C., MacCormack, J. K., Stein, A. G., Lindquist, K. A., & Muscatell, K. A. (2021). The neural underpinnings of intergroup social cognition: an fMRI meta-analysis. Social
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