The Psychology of Conformity

Is there rationale behind human behaviour? In an attempt to draw explanatory patters connecting different forms of human conduct, one finds themselves in the field of psychology. Indeed, psychology is the study of human behaviour. This paper will explore the psychological concepts behind persuasion, acquiescence, aid and honour.

The tendency to conform is one of many traits that are inherent in our gender. While there is still no clear verdict on the direction of conformity with respect to gender, most studies have shown that males tend conform less than females. According to Santee and Jackson (1882), females view conformity as a constructive and character building trait more than males do.  Owing to their more empathetic nature, women often conform in order to maintain harmony. Men, on the other hand, are more inclined towards being independent and assertive and thus deviate from the norm as an act of self-definition.

In 1984, Dr. Robert Cialdini introduced the idea of the nature of consistency in human beings and the role it played in gaining compliance. The Low-Ball (Cialdini, Cacioppo, Bassett and Miller, 1978) and The Foot In The Door (Freedman & Fraser, 1966) are two compliance techniques that build on Cialdini’s rule. In the Low-Ball procedure, it is stipulated that an intial agreement to lower proposed terms increases the probability of a subsequent agreement when the terms are increased. For the second technique, a commitment to a smaller request is assumed to increase the likelihood to consent to a much larger but consistent request.

It is postulated that the presence of company delimits one’s willingness to offer help. This psychological concept is the ‘Bystander Effect’ (Latane & Darley, 1968). In this theory, people go through five crucial steps when deciding whether or not to give aid. First, they notice the event and secondly, gauge its urgency. The next phase is deciding whether or not they should assume responsibility for offering the aid. Upon a positive internal response, they proceed to the fourth step which involves self-assessment of their knowledge of how to dispense the required air. Finally, in the fifth step, they act to offer the required help or decline.

A culture of honour is an unsaid code of conduct in which one refrains from willingly offending others but is inclined to retaliate to an unjust act done against them or such an act that injures their honour. In such honour cultures, a woman’s infidelity with another man is highly regarded as insult her intimate partner’s reputation. Sexual jealousy is therefore heightened in a situation of honour cultures (Vandello & Cohen, 2003). When it comes to aggression, the use of violence to restore lost reputation is often permissible in cultures of honour (Vandello & Cohen, 2003).  Therefore, both sexual jealousy and aggression are seen to proliferate under the influence of cultures of honour.

In conclusion, it can be seen that psychological patterns are present in human behaviours such as conformity, compliance, the offering of aid, jealousy and aggression. For these patterns, a degree of rationale is, more often than not, discernible and to some degree even predictable.

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