Cultural conformity denotes the agreement between a person’s behavior and the standard determined by a group or a culture. There is a common view that conformity leads to laissez-faire characters. However, I feel that this is not the case; we all conform to set norms at one time or other whether consciously and unconsciously.
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There are various reasons why conforming to a culture is important. The major reason is that there arises a sense of security when people adhere to certain standards of behavior.
This phenomenon comes out clearly in the business world; for instance, in making a business deal, the mode of dressing of both sides is important as it can send the wrong or right message. A suited wall-street investor may not invest money with an investment firm whose employees spot studs and fancy hairstyles, as this mode of dressing is not according to the norms of the business world.
The other value is cohesion in the group; a leader is the semblance of unity in any group or society, therefore, he or she must represent the will of the majority. According to Hargreaves “the members of the high status, the leaders, are the most conformist to the group norms” (1975, p.108).
It is imperative to have a leader who is a conformist to the group’s ideals as this is the way to maintain the ideals and group’s cohesion. Moreover, stability is one characteristic of a society that shows the value of cultural conformity. There are fewer surprises in the way they are governed and little possibility of conflict among themselves as most opinions are convergent as opposed to being divergent.
On the other hand, nonconformity and dissent do occur in most cultures, and the societies respond to them in various ways. Individuals who form dissenting views face rejection in their society at first. They are enemies to their societies for they threaten the highly regarded and practiced values. For instance, the first campaigners of gay and lesbian rights faced rejection from the society and even to date; they still face the same problem in societies that have not embraced such sexual inclinations.
Nonconformists would be alienated from leadership in their respective groups and societies because the majority thinks that these clique of ‘dissentients’ will advocate for alien philosophies that will erode the values they hold dearly. However, through the leaders some of these ideologies find their place with time in cultures. Punishment is a societal reaction that threatens nonconformists’ values greatly. Threats of being killed or injured if one does not conform to the society may refrain many from holding to nonconformist views.
According to Forsyth (2009), people conform not only because of fears but also because they feel personally compelled to live up to their own expectations (p.199).This is because of the normative influence that the group has upon them. People adopt normal ways of acting in various situations (like how to introduce themselves to strangers) according to their groupings.
Cultural conformity cannot be over emphasized; the security, stability, and cohesion that it brings about in a group or society underscore its value. Nonconformist behavior, even though a boon for art, does pose a threat to the greatly regarded values that a society holds. The society is therefore justified in meting out punishment and ostracizing those who do not conform to the norms.
Forsyth, D. (2009). Group Dynamics. Belmont: Wadsworth Cengage Learning Center.
Hargreaves, H. (1975). Interpersonal Relations and Education. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul ltd.