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Difference Between Conformity and Peer Pressure

Both conformity and peer pressure involve negative and positive behavioral change and social influence. However, conformity focuses on the actual change of behavior while peer pressure is the subjective experience of being persuaded and encouraged by peers. The following discussions further delve into their distinctions. 

What is Conformity? 

Conformity is a type of social influence by changing your belief or behavior to match the majority’s expectations. It came from the Latin word “conformare” which literally means “to form”.  Arthur Jenness (1932) is identified as one of the first (or the first) individuals to scientifically study this concept.  He asked his research participants to estimate how many beans does a certain bottle contain. The participants were then given time to discuss among themselves and come up with a group estimate. After the group discussion, Jenness individually asked each participant if he would like to change his initial estimate. Jenness found out that almost all of the participants changed their first answers to be closer to the group’s estimate. Hence, initial decisions may be significantly influenced by other’s views, especially in uncertain situations (Sparks, 2018). 

Moreover, three types of conformity were identified by Kelman (1958). 

Compliance 

This type of conformity involves a momentary behavior change since it ends with the absence of the majority’s expectations. It happens when there is no meaningful or personal connection with the influence. It is driven by the goal to obtain group approval or a related positive response. For example, an actor may appear charitable and kind in front of the press but is inconsiderate and cruel when he is off camera.   

Identification 

This involves more commitment since it occurs when individuals modify their behaviors in order to be members of particular groups. However, the conformity may end when the membership is terminated. For example, a teenager changed her fashion style, diet, and physical activities in order to be a part of the cheerleading squad. After graduation, she worked as a call center representative and had a more tomboyish fashion style, a less-restricted diet, and engaged in fewer physical activities.

Internalization

Internalization is the deepest kind of conformity since the behavioral change is often permanent. As it involves both private and public conformity, there is a significantly more meaningful conviction. For instance, an individual who formerly suffered from substance abuse disorder is now having a healthier lifestyle and is conducting therapy to help patients overcome their addiction.  

What is Peer Pressure? 

Peer pressure is a subjective experience; it is when you feel that you are being persuaded and encouraged by other group members to engage in certain actions (Cakirpaloglu, 2016). It is when you feel that you are being influenced by people who you socialize with or individuals who are similar to you in interests, age, or other factors (such as your friends, classmates, workmates, etc.) to behave in a particular way (Heberle, 2021). This is usually discussed in the context of young individuals. 

The following methods reflect how peers put pressure on an individual (Santiago, 2017): 

  • Forcing someone to do something he is uncomfortable with

This may be observed in “initiation rituals” such as when the newbie is persuaded by his workmates to take the grave yard shift or when a student is being pressured by his friends to ditch his classes. 

  • Giving reasons why someone needs to do something 

Peers may prey on the naïve nature of an individual and use reasoning to influence him. 

  • The individual is made to feel rejected 

Individuals may be under pressure to do something which they are not comfortable with just because they do not want to feel left out or they are afraid that they will be rejected from a relationship. 

Peer pressure can be positive or negative: 

  •   Negative Peer Pressure

This occurs when an individual is pressured to engage in actions which are harmful. It often leads to a loss of self-confidence, decline of academic performance, communication gap between parents and children, and the adoption of dangerous habits. For instance, adolescents may be pressured to drink alcohol, smoke, engage in casual sex, lie, and skip school (Santiago, 2017).

  • Positive Peer Pressure

Peer pressure is not always bad; for instance, this could influence someone to have a healthier lifestyle (Hartney, 2020). Other examples include a teen who is pressured to study because his friends think it’s cool to get high grades and a young adult who is convinced to get a job since it’s fun to have extra money (Morin, 2020). 

Difference between Conformity and Peer Pressure

Definition 

Conformity is a type of social influence by changing your belief or behavior to match the majority’s expectations. It came from the Latin word “conformare” which literally means “to form”.  Peer pressure is a subjective experience; it is when you feel that you are being persuaded and encouraged by other group members to engage in certain actions (Cakirpaloglu, et al., 2016).

Source of Influence 

As compared to peer pressure, the source of influence in conformity is more general as it can be your peers, authorities, and others who comprise the majority. As for peer pressure, the source is more specific; it is the individuals who are similar to you in interests, age, or other factors (such as your friends, classmates, workmates, etc.). 

Actualization of Behavioral Change

As compared to peer pressure, the actualization of change in conformity is more definite since it is characterized by a temporary or permanent behavioral shift. On the other hand, peer pressure focuses on the subjective experience of a being persuaded to engage in certain actions. 

Conformity vs Peer Pressure

Summary 

  • Conformity is a type of social influence by changing your belief or behavior to match the majority’s expectations while peer pressure is when you feel that you are being persuaded and encouraged by other group members to engage in certain actions.
  • The source of influence in conformity is more general as compared to that of peer pressure. 
  • The actualization of behavioral change in conformity is more definite as compared to peer pressure. 


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References :


[0]Cakirpaloglu, S., Lemrova, S., Kvintova, J., & Vevodova, S. (2016). Conformity, peer pressure, popularity, and risk behavior among adolescents. Research Gate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/311365417_CONFORMITY_PEER_PRESSURE_POPULARITY_AND_RISK_BEHAVIOR_AMONG_ADOLESCENTS

[1]Herberle, M. (2021). What is peer pressure? Study.com. https://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-peer-pressure-definition-lesson-quiz.html

[2]Kelman, H. (1958). Compliance, Identification, and Internalization: Three Processes of Attitude Change. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 2 (1) :51-60.

[3]Morin, A. (2020). Negative and positive peer pressure differences. Very well family. https://www.verywellfamily.com/negative-and-positive-peer-pressure-differences-2606643

[4]Santiago, R. (2017). Difference between positive and negative peer pressure. CVDAPC. http://cvdapc.org/difference-positive-negative-peer-pressure/

[5]Sparks, J. (2018). Types of conformity. Tutor2u, 2018. tutor2u.net/psychology/reference/types-of-conformity

[6]Image credit: https://kidshelpline.com.au/sites/default/files/bdl_image/header-T-PPAFI.png

[7]Image credit: https://miro.medium.com/max/4968/1*KpEICdJryYdRDXhYzrZzaA.jpeg

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