Conformity bias is individuals’ tendency to change their behaviors or attitudes to align with those around them rather than using their own judgment.

What is conformity bias? Meaning and definition

Conformity bias (also known as social conformity) is a psychological phenomenon. It refers to the tendency of individuals to conform to the opinions and behaviors of others around them. 

The phenomenon is a type of social influence that occurs when people change how they act or think to match those of their peers – even if they disagree with them. 

What makes conformity an issue is that it means giving in to peer pressure, which can cause people to adopt opinions and behaviors that are unethical – or maybe even illegal.

Types of conformity bias

There are different types of conformity bias depending on the nature of our agreement with those around us. 

Read more about the different types below.

Compliance/normative conformity

Compliance/normative conformity occurs when we conform to the expectations and norms of a group to gain their acceptance and approval – or to avoid rejection.

For example, an individual might change their opinion or behavior to fit in with a specific social group in order to avoid being ostracized.

Identification-based conformity

Identification-based conformity occurs when we adapt to the behaviors or beliefs of a person we admire or respect; for example, a family member, a celebrity, or a respected colleague. This can be motivated by the desire to be like that person or to feel a sense of belonging to their group.

This type of conformity tends to be more lasting than compliance-based conformity. However, it can still be influenced by changes in the individual’s attitudes or relationship with the admired person/group.

Internalization conformity

Internalization conformity is the deepest level of conformity, where we not only adopt the behaviors or attitudes of a group but also accept them as our own. Thus, we conform both publicly and privately because the norms of the group are consistent with our personal values and beliefs. 

It is considered to be the most lasting and stable form of conformity, as individuals integrate the norms of the group into their own value system. The result is that they are less likely to change their behaviors or beliefs – even after leaving the group.

Ingroup bias relates to this type of conformity, as it involves the tendency of individuals to favor members of their own group.

Ingratiation conformity

Ingratiation conformity is similar to the other types. The difference is, however, that the individual adopts behaviors or attitudes that they believe will make them more likable or attractive to others to achieve a specific goal. For example, the goal may be to gain approval, acceptance, or some other form of reward such as a promotion. 

For instance, an employee might seem hard-working or more friendly than they really are because they hope to be promoted. 

Examples of conformity bias

A typical example of conformity bias is peer pressure, where individuals conform to the behavior of their friends or social group, even if they do not agree with them.

Another example is workplace culture, where conformity bias can lead employees to adopt certain behaviors and attitudes consistent with the company culture – even if the attitudes do not align with their values.

Lastly, fashion trends are a common example where individuals adopt certain styles or trends simply because they are popular or fashionable.

Similarity bias – definition and explanation

Similarity bias occurs when we are more likely to conform to the opinions and behaviors of similar individuals. It is a type of conformity bias based on factors such as age, gender, or shared interests. 

Similar to the halo effect, the horns effect, and affinity bias, similarity bias is a type of unconscious bias where our brains use a mental shortcut to determine whether we find comfort or familiarity in someone – even when we have nothing to go on except the first impression. 

The main issue with this type of bias is that it can lead to narrow-mindedness and a lack of diversity in our thinking. If we only surround ourselves with people who are similar to us, we may miss out on valuable perspectives from people with different backgrounds.

What is similar-to-me bias?

Similar-to-me bias is another term used to describe similarity bias, where we only seek the opinions of people who are similar to us. 

The bias can lead to groupthink in the form of a strong pressure to conform, a lack of dissenting opinions, and a belief in the moral superiority of the group.  

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