Concept of Conformity
According to Fish (2012), conformity can be defined as the tendency to align one’s attitudes, behaviors and beliefs with those around. Usually, conformity is a powerful force that takes the form of unconscious influence and social pressure. To some extent, conformity is a product of cultural conditions, and is normally a stable feature of popular stereotypes which depict some national groups as conforming and submissive, and others as independent and self-assertive. There is limited literature on comparisons between cultural groups within a society, with the literature on differences between African Americans and Whites in the United States being small and inconsistent. According to Bond & Smith (1996), there is less conformity among African American women as compared to white women. In men, there was negligible difference. This was according to a study conducted in 1964. Many of the studies conducted showed that African Americans conformed more than Whites.
Schneider (1970) measured conformity among African American and White children using a sample of 48 African American and 48 White junior high school children. The results indicated that Whites conformed less to African American peers than to White peers. The conformity of African Americans was not differentially affected by the ethnicity of the source of influence. According to Scheiner (1970), Whites conformed more to their own ethnic group than African Americans conformed to their own ethnic group. This difference was largely attributed to the magnitude of the White female’s conformity. Conformity is usually guided by inclusion. The United States was predominantly white whereby racism had taken root. Therefore, in order for African Americans to be accepted into the society, they had to conform to the beliefs, attitudes and behaviors of white people. For example, some people would bleach their skins or perform plastic surgery. This element is displayed widely in the comic strip The Boondocks whereby Uncle Ruckus, an African American, tries so hard to conform to the way of life of the White people in the neighborhood. A term that was coined for conformity among African Americans was “acting white”. This was a term that was used to refer to an individual’s perceived betrayal of their ethnicity or race by trying to meet the social expectations of the White people. However, with the rise of Barack Obama, and African American, might change issues of conformity among African Americans. Most of them feel proud to be African Americans. However, what is clear is that conformity will continue to exist as long as there are cultural differences and struggles for cultural supremacy.
Bond, R. & Smith, P.B. (1996) Culture and Conformity: A Meta-Analysis of Studies Using Asch’s Line Judgment Task. Psychological Bulletin, 1996; 119(1): 111-137.
Fish, J.M. (2012) How Cultures Make People Conform. Psychology Today, 2012. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/looking-in-the-cultural-mirror/201212/how- cultures-make-people-conform
Schneider, F.W. (1970) Conforming Behavior of Black and White Children. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1970; 16(3): 466-471.