The science of conformity

I want you to think back to high school, however long ago it was. Remember how you were put into a group, whether it be jocks, nerds, the popular’s, and to be in the group you had a set of traits and rules you had to follow to be ‘in’. In order to be a jock, you had to be on a sports team, to be in nerd you must get really high marks, each clique has its own set of rules or regulations to be in it.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about cults and their followers. This week I want to branch off to the main aspects of cults: conformity. Why do people follow others and is it bad?

Conformity is all evolutionary, we as humans are made to be social. For the sake of collectiveness people are driven to fit in. We will copy the actions of others or look to the group to know how to think and act. Conformity is varying it could be in appearance, behavior, or social norms, even non- conformists conform to society.

From our very first breath we begin to conform. Infants learn the correct behavior by mimicking the parents and siblings. Children also learn social skills by observing and copying friends and teachers. Children conform to the rules at home then conform to a whole new set of rules at school, the grocery store, even at friend’s houses.

There are two main types of conformity:

  • Informational: The lack of knowledge so someone looks to the group for information and direction on decisions and opinions
  • Normative: The change of someone’s behavior and beliefs to fit in with the group.

Of course, there are similar categories of conformity which are:

  • Identification: the conforming of people to do what is expected of them based on their social rules this happened during the Stanford prison experiment which I wrote about last week.   
  • Compliance: The changing of behavior while still disagreeing internally with the group. Ex. Phase one of cults which I wrote about a few weeks back.
  • Internalization: The changing of ideas and behaviors of someone who now believes what the group believes. Ex. Phase two of cults.

Conformity, though, happens everywhere, it changes strengths and amounts based on many influential factors:

  • Difficulty of the tasks
  • Personal individual differences
  • Size of the group
  • Characteristics of the situation
  • Cultural differences  

Conformity can be good or bad based on the situation since conformity could help survival or social harmony or it could be very bad and create outgroup bullying or fear. In the case of society we have laws and we expect those laws to be followed we expect the common people to conform and follow those laws in the case of being kidnapped you should conform to what they want in order to survive if you look at North Korea though that is negative conformity built off of fear.

Cherry, Kendra. “Why Do We Try so Hard to Be Like Other People and Conform?” Verywell Mind, 26 Mar. 2020,

“Conformity.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers,

Stanford Prison Experiment

Imagine you are in a place of complete control. Everyone is doing what you say, when you say, how you say to do it, and you don’t need to explain why. You want them to obey every command they will do it just because you said so. You feel as though you are invincible, and nothing can stop you.

Now imagine the opposite, being the one controlled over. You have no place to speak and if you speak against the person in control you get punished. You get locked away or denied any food or privacy. You must do whatever the person says, or you will get penalized.

Both seems like extremes, you all the way to the left, one all the way to the right with no meet in the middle. You have the controller and the controlee. The one in power would probably feel pretty good getting whatever you want when you want it and how you wanted it. On the contrast being the controlee feels bad having no right to be who you are and being denied basic human rights, in other words, you feel like a dog. 

These are the feelings the boys in the Stanford Prison Experiment felt like. Now we know that the whole experiment is morally wrong, and that heavy emotional toll was taken. Those are prisoners had severe mental health problems after they were released, they felt like they were not allowed to have opinions; they are not allowed to be themselves. Those as a guard afterwards felt appalled over what they did, but some thought that the feeling of being in control felt great.

For those of you who have never heard of this or have heard but don’t know what its about, here is a summary of what happened. A psychologist Dr. Zimbardo wanted to test out if the brutality of American correctional officers were due to their sadistic tendencies or because of the environment they are in. He placed an ad in the newspaper open to college students who were willing to act out the role as a prison guard or a prisoner for 2 weeks with a pay of $15/hr.

Dr. Zimbardo controlled for mental illness and disability so those factors could not interfere with the results of his research. He took 21 boys and gave them each an assigned position as the guard or the prisoner and left them to be and act out what a prison should be like. The same amount of food was given, the same outfits were used, and the place looked very much like a prison.

To make a long story short, the experiment only lasted 6 days because the whole research went haywire. The guards started to emotionally abuse the prisoners and the prisoners were no longer people, they referred to themselves by their number and did exactly as told because they were afraid of what could happen. They could not be physically beaten though since it was in the contract that no physical violence could be used.

The guards would only talk about trouble prisoners and the jail conditions while the prisoners only talked about the jail conditions. Neither party talked about things outside of the experiment as they accepted their placement and really took on the roll of their part. Maybe even too much. The guards developed extreme aggressions and the prisoners engaged in mental breakdowns.

The conclusion of this experiment was as follows: “people will readily conform to the social roles they are expected to play, especially if the roles are as strongly stereotyped as those of the prison guards.”

What I believe should be done with this research is to take the outcome and compare it to how teens and children act in schools. Students become who they think they should be based on reputations and social roles given to them by peers. Maybe if we understood this more we could increase the likelihood of stopping bullying and maltreatment from student to student.

Mcleod, Saul. “The Stanford Prison Experiment.” Stanford Prison Experiment | Simply Psychology,

What and why we dream?

Have you ever woken up from sleep in cold sweats, feeling super anxious? How about waking up feeling super great ready to take on the day because you had the perfect dream? If you said no or I don’t have dreams, then you just don’t remember your dreams. Everyone dreams whether you are conscious of it or not.

Dreams are imaginary thoughts that get materialized into pictures and sounds while you are unconscious. The most vivid dreams happen between REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and being awake. You have different levels of dreaming, you have first and foremost nightmares, a casual dream, vivid, lucid dreams, and night terrors.

A dream or nightmare can last anywhere from 5 minutes to 30 minutes to maybe more, but the typical dream lasts 30 minutes. I know for me I fall back to sleep after my alarm and dream, which I feel lasts a long period of time, but in reality, it only lasted 15 minutes.  So, dreams can feel like they last a lifetime, especially if they are particularly bad.

Why we dream, I can’t really say because scientists still haven’t figured that out, but there are theories to why dreams exist.  The most common theory moving around today is that dreams are for our emotional, mental, and physical health. If you don’t go into REM sleep you are more likely to be:

  • Anxious
  • Depressed
  • Full of tension
  • Lack concentration
  • Gain weight
  • More perceptible to hallucinations

Experts say that dreaming helps solve problems or help us to at least come to an understanding with them to lessen the impact on our mental state and to process emotions. Why else do you think that if you go to bed sad you wake up the next day feeling better or at least calm.

No one knows what dreams mean because dreaming is specific to the person having the dream. There is no ‘I dreamt of playing basketball so according to this website I am good at teamwork and cooperation’ see dreams may have a meaning, but there is no general meaning of a specific object or activity in a dream. Your dreams though might be telling you something serious, if you are having frequent nightmares there must be a reason for this. If you are having frequent nightmares you should go to your doctor and have some tests run.

You are open to your own opinion; I mean if you believe that your dreams mean something follow your heart. I have also fallen victim to dream dictionary sights searching up what my dream meant if it was concerning or really vivid, but dreams as of research now, they have no meaning.

DerSarkissian, Carol. “Dreams: Why We Dream, Nightmares, and Lucid Dreams.” WebMD, WebMD, 5 Nov. 2019,

“Dreaming.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers,