Thursday, January 27, 2005

Curious about Conformity? Do You or Don't You - Conform, That Is?

I would sum up my fear about the future in one word: boring. And that's my one fear: that everything has happened; nothing exciting or new or interesting is ever going to happen again... the future is just going to be a vast, conforming suburb of the soul.” J. G. Ballard

Today I was listening to a tape where the author was describing a study made with several groups of eight people. In each group there were seven who were told ahead of time that this was a study and were also prepped on what to say - the eighth person was the “guinea pig.”

The group was shown a picture of a line and then other pictures of lines. All agreed that the first and second were equal in length, but when shown the picture with an obviously much shorter or longer line than the first, the seven agreed that they were also equal. In most cases, the test subject (number eight) would in 95% of the times agree with the seven. When questioned afterward, he and/or she would admit they thought the lines were not equal, but decided to go along with the group.

It made me start to wonder how often we tend to conform, even though we don’t agree, just to be part of the group. And, isn’t conformity caused mostly by peer pressure and wanting to “fit in” and be liked? Then, I decided to check out the experts to find out what they had to say about conformity.

Loving good quotes, I decided to do a search and found yet another great tool through Google, called

  • Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.” John F. Kennedy
  • In America, through pressure of conformity, there is freedom of choice, but nothing to choose from.” Peter Ustinov
  • If you stand up and be counted, from time to time you may get yourself knocked down. But remember this: A man flattened by an opponent can get up again. A man flattened by conformity stays down for good.” Thomas J. Watson
  • In any free society, the conflict between social conformity and individual liberty is permanent.” Kathleen Norris
  • The opposite of bravery is not cowardice but conformity.” Robert Anthony
  • Follow the path of the unsafe, independent thinker. Expose your ideas to the dangers of controversy. Speak your mind and fear less the label of 'crackpot' than the stigma of conformity. And on issues that seem important to you, stand up and be counted at any cost.” Chauncey Depew
  • To be one's self, and unafraid whether right or wrong, is more admirable than the easy cowardice of surrender to conformity.” Irving Wallace

The above quotations made me think a great deal about conformity - how easy it is and yet how damaging it can be. I realize that conformity on some fronts is necessary and sensible, but on the other side we need to stick up for what we believe in and not always just go along with the group.

What do you think? Do you tend to conform or not?