Conformity: The games of the mind


Kirey Simmons

Leaving the first class meeting of the year, Chauncey Magwood (11) and Smith Pinson (11) talk about the meeting lightheartedly. "At least we got some time out of class" said Magwood.

People are inclined to stick with a group; to be with others and avoid being different. There have been many experiments on the reason and regularity of conformity. 

One of the more largely known experiments was performed by Solomon Asch. In these trials, there is a group of actors which are told to give a certain answer or perform a certain action. With them one stranger is included that has no idea of the experiment. In Asch’s experiments, it was found that the subject would conform with the group near 75 percent of the time, even though they answered correctly 98 percent of the time when they wrote their answers without influence. 

His experiment has since been repeated numerous times with similar results. According to PennState, “compliance is a type of ‘normative social influence’ in which a person wants to be accepted so he or she will agree with a group’s beliefs even though he or she may not share them.“

In a high school scenario, the likelihood of conformity is even greater. Teens wish to be like someone they may admire or to mirror their friends so they are not the “odd one out.” In school, teachers see this behavior constantly.

Megan Lisenby (Faculty) teaches art, and her classroom is considerably more diverse.  She believes her students are able to break out more in her classroom and be free from fear of not fitting in.

Lisenby said”I think my class is an opportunity for students to get out of their comfort zone. Art allows people to express themselves and isn’t a class where you have to fit in with anyone.”

Lisenby has noticed how students have come out of their shell in her room, unleashing their creativity and finding the artistic side of themselves.

Some students may conform because they feel that another person may be smarter; or because they are intimidated. While most only think that the word ‘conformity’ includes things like what they may say or how they may act towards someone, it is much more. Students may feel fear over the smallest thing, such as expressing an opinion over a food or a movie, they may change their diets or preferences to fit in.

Verywell Mind mentions that conformity may even be caused by a subconscious fear of punishment. If a student has friends or family that may belittle their opinions, or say things such as “I cannot believe you would vote for them, they’re the worst.” These seemingly small things can build in the subconscious and drive an aversion to difference deep in a person.