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Conformity Definition

What Conformity Means


Updated June 08, 2012

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Definition: Conformity refers to the taking on of others' attitudes, beliefs or behaviors as one's own. People conform in order to follow social norms and to avoid social exclusion. Conformity can be readily observed, such as when people engage in similar styles of dressing and speaking, similar preferences in music and food, and similar patterns of political beliefs.

Conformity is especially prevalent during the tween and teen years. During this developmental period, kids tend to have a particularly strong need for peer acceptance. Behaving in a way that does not match the social norm can lead to ostracism, which has a number of negative effects.

Conforming with the group is often part of the process of finding one's sense of self. A tween might "try on" a particular way of acting because it goes along with the mainstream social culture. The tween may or may not feel like the adopted approach matches her innermost self. In either case, she has gained a better understanding of her true sense of identity in the process.

One study of a type of social conformity was conducted by psychologist Solomon Asch. He demonstrated that most college students would provide an answer they knew to be incorrect simply because their peers were giving that incorrect answer.


Zaki, Jamil, Schirmer, Jessica, & Mitchell, Jason. Social influence modulates the neural computation of value. Psychological Science. 2011.

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