Conformity involves a change of behaviour or opinion in order to fit in with a group.
This may be a membership group (family or peers), or it may be a reference group (pop or sports stars). This group can be either a majority or a minority group.
Two main processes have been identified in causing people to conform:
This type of influence often comes from peer pressure. Reasons include; fear of rejection, wanting approval, simply to be identified as part of a group and to show loyalty.
How often do people look at their friends when they vote for something with their hands up?
This type of influence is concerned with the fear of looking unintelligent and believing others know better, especially if the task is difficult or unfamiliar.
Would you trust someone else's answer more than your own when you haven't revised very hard for a test?
A minority group can also strongly influence an individual, this is more likely when the minority are the 'in group', possibly due to social status or age, or they are acting out of principle and have made personal sacrifices in the pursuit of their beliefs.
Moscovici designed an experiment to investigate the influence of a stooge minority, that is a group of people who have been 'planted' in the experiment. The stooges will already have been told what to say by the researcher.
In this experiment, volunteers had to judge the colour of slides that were blue-green. If the minority were consistent, for example, saying "green" all the time, they had a definite influence in changing the opinions of others in the group.
Finally, check your psychological vocabulary - try this mix and match exercise. Just drag and drop the correct vocabulary into place to match the definitions.