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What is Conformity Bias – Types & Examples

Published by at August 10th, 2023 , Revised On October 5, 2023

Let’s say you are part of a book club. This month, the club reads a book that you personally found uninteresting and poorly written. However, during the discussion, everyone else in the group praises the book, calling it captivating and brilliantly composed.

Despite your personal opinion, you might find yourself agreeing with the group’s opinion publicly to avoid conflict or to fit in. 

The human brain, which prides itself on its individualism and unique thought processes, is often a victim of a phenomenon known as ‘conformity bias’. This research bias influences how we respond to and behave in various circumstances. It often leads us to comply with the norm, even if it is at odds with our understanding or instincts. 

Interestingly, conformity bias could be seen as a manifestation of anchoring bias, where individuals rely heavily on the initial piece of information (the group’s opinions) and adjust their views accordingly. 

Let’s discuss the conformity bias definition in detail. 

What is Conformity Bias Meaning?

Conformity bias, or social conformity bias, is a psychological tendency to align one’s attitudes, beliefs, or behaviours with those of a group or societal norms. It is a notable aspect of human behaviour observed in many social environments, such as workplaces, schools, and other social settings. 

Moreover, this tendency to conform is driven by the human need to accept and belong, which can sometimes overshadow personal judgment or factual evidence.

Types of Conformity Bias 

Conformity bias is not a monolithic phenomenon. Here are some of the key types and conformity bias examples:

Normative Conformity

Normative conformity is the most common type of conformity bias. In this, individuals change their behaviour to fit into a particular group and be accepted. It usually leads to individuals suppressing their personal views or behaviours to avoid discomfort or exclusion.

Example of Normative Conformity

Consider a corporate environment with an unspoken dress code—most employees wear formal attire. A new employee who prefers casual clothing might start wearing suits and ties to fit into this norm, despite their personal preference for more relaxed attire. 

This is an example of normative conformity, where a person adapts their preference to avoid negative judgment. It is also worth noting that this can trigger a hostile attribution bias, as the person may perceive the expectation of formal dress as an implicit criticism of their casual style.

Informational Conformity

Informational conformity is a type of conformity bias that occurs when an individual lacks information and turns to group consensus as a source of accurate information. The bias can be seen when people rely more on collective wisdom rather than personal judgment or critical thinking.

Example of Informational Conformity 

When shopping online, many of us read reviews before making a purchase. If a product has high ratings and positive reviews, we will likely think it’s a good product, even if we initially had doubts. This is an example of informational conformity—we’re relying on the collective judgment of others due to a lack of direct information.

Ingratiation Conformity

In this form of conformity, individuals adjust their attitudes or behaviours to be more likeable or favourable to a particular group or person, usually to gain some advantage.

Example of Ingratiation Conformity

In a job interview, a candidate might express agreement with the interviewer’s opinions or mirror their behaviours in an attempt to appear more favourable. This behaviour is an example of ingratiation conformity.

Compliance Conformity

Compliance conformity happens when individuals adapt their actions to the group norm, even if they privately disagree. They conform externally to avoid repercussions or to gain rewards, but internally they maintain their personal beliefs.

Example of Compliance Conformity 

Imagine an office scenario where a controversial policy is being implemented. Employees might outwardly support the policy in meetings, but privately, they strongly disagree with it.

Identification Conformity

Individuals adjust their behaviours or beliefs to match those they respect or admire. This is more stable than compliance conformity but less enduring than internalisation.

Example of Identification Conformity 

In advertising, companies often use celebrities to endorse their products. People who admire those celebrities are more likely to buy the product to align themselves with the image of the celebrity. This is identification conformity at work.

Internalisation Conformity

This is the deepest level of conformity. In this case, an individual genuinely adopts the beliefs or actions of a group because they align with their own. This kind of conformity is the most enduring and resistant to change.

Example of Internalisation Conformity 

A person who genuinely believes in the doctrines of a particular religion and behaves according to those beliefs is an example of internalisation conformity.

The Role of Conformity Bias in Everyday Life

Conformity bias is integral to various aspects of our everyday lives, often unnoticed. This psychological principle influences our decisions, behaviours, and interactions and affects personal, social, and professional dimensions.

Personal Decisions

In personal decisions, conformity bias often guides our choices. For instance, we may find ourselves drawn to popular fashion, food, or technology trends because we see others following them. While we might attribute our choices to personal preferences, we are often unconsciously influenced by the majority’s opinions or actions.

Social Conformity Bias

On a social level, conformity bias helps maintain societal order and facilitates effective communication. We adhere to certain norms—like queuing, following traffic rules, or maintaining specific etiquette—not just because of legal or formal regulations but also because of the inherent desire to fit societal expectations. Such conformity can promote harmony and predictability within the community.

Professional Impact 

In professional settings, conformity bias is a cognitive bias that significantly shapes organisational culture. Employees often conform to unspoken rules, such as dress codes or work ethics, to fit in and avoid being seen as an outlier. This can foster a sense of unity and belonging within the workplace and can also hinder diversity of thought and innovation if not managed appropriately.

Impact on Belief Systems

The influence of conformity bias also extends to our belief systems. We often align our beliefs and values with those of a particular social, political, or religious group we identify with, affecting our perspectives on various issues. This can promote a sense of unity and shared understanding but also has the potential to limit individuality and critical thinking.

Impact on Health

Conformity bias can even impact our health-related behaviours. For instance, the decision to follow a specific diet, engage in regular exercise, or avoid harmful habits like smoking can often be influenced by societal norms and expectations.

Conformity Bias Examples 

You notice that a particular clothing style is becoming increasingly popular among your friends and celebrities. Even though it is not your usual style, you buy similar clothes to fit the trend.

Examples of Conformity Bias in the Work Place 

You are in a job interview, and the interviewer expresses a certain viewpoint. Even if you don’t entirely agree, you find yourself nodding and echoing their sentiment to create a positive impression.

How to Avoid Conformity Bias

Overcoming conformity requires self-awareness, courage, and a conscious effort to develop critical thinking. While this bias is deeply rooted in human psychology, it is imperative to recognise and address improved independent thinking and better decision-making. 

Below are some strategies to help overcome conformity bias:

Cultivate Self-Awareness

You have to become aware of the existence of conformity bias. Acknowledge that it is a part of human psychology and can affect anyone. You need to reflect on your actions and decisions and identify instances where you have conformed due to external pressure or lack of information instead of personal belief or choice.

Prioritise Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is key to overcoming conformity bias. Rather than taking things at face value, learn to question information, opinions, and norms presented to you. Analyse all aspects of an issue before forming your opinion. Encourage diversity in your sources of information to ensure a well-rounded perspective.

Strengthen Self-Confidence

Self-confidence is crucial in resisting the pressure to conform. When you are confident in your own abilities and judgments, you are less likely to be swayed by the majority. Develop your skills, knowledge, and abilities in different areas, and believe in your capacity to make informed decisions.

Seek Diverse Perspectives

Interacting with people from different backgrounds and perspectives can broaden your viewpoint and reduce the tendency to conform. Exposure to various views makes you more likely to question norms and consider different possibilities.

Encourage Open Dialogue and Debate

In group settings, foster an environment where differing opinions are valued and encouraged. This can help reduce the pressure to conform and promote independent thinking.

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness practice can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings. This heightened awareness can enable you to recognise when you conform due to bias and choose a more authentic response.

Value your Individuality

Finally, remember the importance of your individuality. Your unique perspectives and experiences contribute to any group or community’s diversity and richness of thought. While seeking social acceptance is natural, it should not come at the cost of losing your individuality.

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Conformity Bias vs Confirmation Bias

Aspect Conformity Bias Confirmation Bias
Definition The tendency to behave similarly to the others in a group, often overriding peresonal beliefs or facts. The tendency to interpret, seek, and remember information in a way that confirms one’s pre-existing beliefs or ideas.
Psychological Basis Rooted in social influence, desire for acceptance, and fear of rejection. Rooted in the desire for cognitive coherence, efficiency in information processing, and avoidance of cognitive dissonance.
Effect on Decision Making Can lead to groupthink, and poor decision-making due to the desire to fit in. Can lead to biased decision-making, ignoring contradictory evidence, and maintaining incorrect beliefs.
Impact on Perception Alters perception based on the group’s behaviour or views. Alters perception based on existing beliefs, attitudes, and experiences.
Example Not expressing a contrary opinion in a meeting because everyone else seems to agree. Believing a news story because it aligns with one’s political viewpoint, regardless of the source’s credibility.
Mitigation Strategies Encouraging diversity of thought, providing safe environments for independent thinking. Encouraging critical thinking, exposure to diverse perspectives, and fact-checking.

Conformity Bias vs Egocentric Bias

Conformity bias is a social influence that persuades us to align our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours with those of a group. This drive to fit in often overrides our own judgment or perception. It causes us to agree with the group consensus, even if we initially disagreed.

On the other hand, egocentric bias is a cognitive bias that causes people to rely too heavily on their own perspective and experience when interpreting events. It leads us to overestimate our contributions and underestimate others’ efforts in joint activities. We also tend to believe our experiences, beliefs, and ideas are more common than they really are.

Frequently Asked Questions

Conformity bias in the workplace is the tendency of employees to adopt behaviours, attitudes, or decisions of their peers or groups to be accepted or liked. This may impact innovation, diversity of thought and lead to groupthink. This can potentially impair business outcomes.

In an interview, conformity bias could manifest as an interviewer favouring candidates who mirror their own views or background, which minimises diversity. Another example of conformity bias in an interview is that a candidate might feign agreement with an interviewer’s opinion, even if they disagree, to increase their perceived likability and chances of selection.

Conformity bias is a psychological tendency to align our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours with those of a group. It is driven by our desire to fit in and be accepted. This bias can hinder individuality and critical thinking and can lead to groupthink in certain scenarios.

  • Encourage Independent Thinking
  • Promote Diversity
  • Anonymous Inputs
  • Educate about biases and their impacts.
  • Seek external opinions to provide an objective view.
  • Use formal procedures to ensure fair and impartial decisions.

Conformity bias can suppress individual thought, creativity, and innovation in favour of group consensus. This can lead to suboptimal decisions or groupthink. Moreover, it can hinder critical thinking and self-expression, prevent the consideration of diverse perspectives, and foster an unhealthy conformist culture.

About Owen Ingram

Avatar for Owen IngramIngram is a dissertation specialist. He has a master's degree in data sciences. His research work aims to compare the various types of research methods used among academicians and researchers.