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Causes of Conformity

The main causes of widespread conformity to the social norms of a group are: -
Socialization is the process through which social norms are inculcated so that they become part of the personality. Any role-conflict or conflict in the norms that apply to the same actor inevitably results in deviation. Any built in arrangement that tends to reduce normative conflict thereby contributes to conformity. Among such arrangements one of the most important is the fact that social norms that might conflict are largely prevented from doing so by applying to different times and places. Thus incompatible expectations cause no trouble unless for some reason the actor fails to allocate his time properly so that action appropriate for one occasion encroaches upon another.

To a considerable extent the norms that apply to a particular actor are ranked in some order of precedence. Thus of expectations conflict the actor has grounds for making a choice. The hierarchy of norms as well as the time and place aspect of norms is part of outline. Thus it is not a device peculiar to each personality but permits intermeshing of culture and is cognizant of the facts of particular situations. Socialization is incomplete unless the time and place and hierarchical aspects of norms are inculcated along with the expected forms of behavior.

Social control works in part through the fact that a socialized actor is able to anticipate in imagination the consequences of violating the expectations of others. Thus sanctions lead to conformity largely without being actually applied.

The willing participation of group members including their conformity to group norms depends to some extent upon the ideas they hold concerning the place of the group in a larger social setting and the way in which the group functions and ought to function. The norms partly express broader values that in the ideology are likely to be emphasized in purer form. The ideology is likely to exaggerate the extent to which social institutions actually fulfill the ideals of values of the group. Ideologies strengthen the faith in the existing system and therefore motivate people to conform the norms.

Sociologists identify three principal factors that contribute to conformity. We internalize many norms. We are unaware of alternative modes of behavior and we may realize that to violate norms may result in our incurring punishment while conformity produces rewards. As members of a society we continuously undergo socialization. Many of these norms we internalized we accept them without any thought or question.

It usually does not occur to us that alternative standards exist. Norms constitute guideposts. They represent the social tools that enable us to relate ourselves to others and to meet our daily needs. Our conformity may be product of our realization that to do otherwise is to incur punishment while conformity produces rewards. The rule breaker is met with hostility and ostracism etc.

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