Types of conformity

What types of conformity are there?

Compliance - shallow conformity - changing your behaviour but not your belief

internalisation - deep conformity - changing your behaviour and your belief
Definition of conformity
Conformity can be defined as:

A type of social influence defined as a change in belief or behaviour in response to real or imagined social pressure

Conformity is en essential social mechanism in society, and without it we would not have social norms and acceptable behaviour. Examples of conformity in everyday society include driving on the left side of the road (or the right side depending on the country), greeting other people with a ‘hello’ when we see them, forming queues at bus stops, and eating with a knife and fork. We expect people to conform to these ‘normal’ behaviours and in turn we conform ourselves. However this does not mean that people cannot also behave independently, and independent behaviour that does not conform to established social norms is an essential mechanism for social change. Examples of failure to conform which has led to social change include the suffragette movement, civil rights activists in countries with oppressive regimes, and fashion trend-setters.

There are two types of conformity - compliance and internalisation.

Compliance is an outward behaviour in which a person goes along with the attitudes and viewpoints of the majority in order to be socially accepted. The person does not actually share the attitudes and viewpoints, he/she is merely appearing to do so. An example might be expressing a political viewpoint when you are with a group that share that viewpoint even though you do not believe it yourself, or perhaps even saying you like a particular musician or band when you do not but your friends do. It is a shallow behaviour with the single aim of public acceptance.

Participants in Asch (1951) complied with the majority answer if they gave the group’s incorrect answer but did not believe it themselves.

Internalisation is both an outward and an inward behaviour in which a person adopts the viewpoints and attitudes of a group and makes them their own. Unlike compliance, in which conformity is purely for social acceptance, with internalisation the person conforms because they believe the group’s viewpoint. An example might be becoming a vegetarian because the people around you believe it is wrong to harm animals. It is a deep behaviour that leads to attitude change.

Participants in Asch (1951) internalised the majority answer if they gave the group’s incorrect answer and they believed the group was correct.

compliance internalisation comparison

A Level exam tips
Answering exam questions (PSYA2 AQA A specification)
Outline two types of conformity (2+2 marks)
2 AO1 marks come from simply stating compliance and internalisation. Make sure you do not get confused with explanations for conformity (i.e. do not write normative social influence and informational social influence). You could use Asch (1951) as an example.

2 AO2 marks then come from explaining how compliance and internalisation differ. You should explain that compliance is basically going along with a group’s behaviour but not accepting it as your own belief or attitude, and that internalisation is both conforming to the behaviour and adopting it as your own belief or attitude. You could give examples to make your explanations clearer.