Conforming is uniquely human

Posted on November 3, 2014

Conformity is a very basic feature of human sociality. It retains in- and out-groups, it helps groups coordinate, and it stabilizes cultural diversity, one of the hallmark characteristics of the human species.

This does not mean that conforming is the right thing to do under all circumstances – conformity can be good or bad, helpful or unhelpful, appropriate or inappropriate both for individuals and the groups they live in. But the fact is that we conform often and that human sociality would look very differently without it. The research shows that children as young as two years of age conform to others, while chimpanzees and orangutans instead prefer to stick with what they know.

In previous research, the researchers discovered that both human children and chimpanzees rely on the majority opinion when they are trying to learn something new. This makes sense when the group has knowledge that the individual doesn’t. But other research has found that human adults sometimes follow the majority even when they already have the relevant knowledge, just so that they don’t stand out from the crowd.

Findings show that the motivation to fit in begins very early in humans. In fact, children as young as two years of age would already change their behavior just to avoid the relative disadvantage of being different.

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Source material from Psych Central