Conformity involves changing your behaviors in order to “fit in” or “go along” with the people around you. In some cases, this social influence might involve agreeing with or acting like the majority of people in a specific group, or it might involve behaving in a particular way in order to be perceived as “normal” by the group.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.- Romans 12:1-2
An Essential Means of Transformation: The Renewal of Your Mind
And in Romans 12:2 Paul now focuses on one essential means of transformation — “the renewal of your mind.” “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Oh, how crucial this is!
If you long to break loose from conformity to the world,
if you long to be transformed and new from the inside out,
if you long to be free from mere duty-driven Christianity and do what you love to do because what you love to do is what you ought to do,
if you long to offer up your body as a living sacrifice so that your whole life becomes a spiritual act of worship and displays the worth of Christ above the worth of the world,
then give yourself with all your might to pursuing this — the renewal of your mind. Because the Bible says, this is the key to transformation. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.”
What’s wrong with the human mind? Why does our mind need renewing? And what does this renewal look like? And how can we pursue and enjoy this renewal?
Psychologists have proposed a variety of definitions to encompass the social influence that conformity exerts.
Essentially, conformity involves giving in to group pressure.
Some other definitions include:
- “Conformity is the most general concept and refers to any change in behavior caused by another person or group; the individual acted in some way because of influence from others. Note that conformity is limited to changes in behavior caused by other people; it does not refer to the effects of other people on internal concepts like attitudes or beliefs … Conformity encompasses compliance and obedience because it refers to any behavior that occurs as a result of others’ influence – no matter what the nature of the influence.”1
- “Conformity can be defined as yielding to group pressures, something which nearly all of us do some of the time. Suppose, for example, you go with friends to see a film. You didn’t think the film was very good, but all your friends thought that it was absolutely brilliant. You might be tempted to conform by pretending to agree with their verdict on the film rather than being the odd one out.” 2
Why Do We Conform?
Researchers have found that people conform to a number of different reasons.3 In many cases, looking to the rest of the group for clues for how we should behave can actually be helpful. Other people might have greater knowledge or experience than we do, so following their lead can actually be instructive.https://c43457098f0c40346cf32c50371af5a6.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
In some instances, we conform to the expectations of the group in order to avoid looking foolish. This tendency can become particularly strong in situations where we are not quite sure how to act or where the expectations are ambiguous.
In 1955, Deutsch and Gerard identified two key reasons why people conform: informational influence and normative influence.4
Informational influence happens when people change their behavior in order to be correct.5 In situations where we are unsure of the correct response, we often look to others who are better informed and more knowledgeable and use their lead as a guide for our own behaviors. In a classroom setting, for example, this might involve agreeing with the judgments of another classmate who you perceive as being highly intelligent.
Normative influence stems from a desire to avoid punishments (such as going along with the rules in class even though you don’t agree with them) and gain rewards (such as behaving in a certain way in order to get people to like you).5