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Thread: Conformity

  1. #41
    Senior Member Ruthie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TickTock View Post
    I am reading a polar view. You clearly have a bias towards conformity and are denying the merrits of nonconformity. You are ignoring nearl all points that are of sound bases. Your definition is skewed somewhat also. Still, you don't have to get it. Whatever works for you.
    You're reading that because I am biased in favor of more conformity than we have today. If I lived in a place or time where conformity were over-celebrated, I'd lean to the other side of it.

  2. #42
    Senior Member Snow Turtle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ruthie View Post
    I would agree with you, but with one change: You seem to be arguing that every question is open for the individual to consider without regard to societal standards. Maybe they reach the same conclusion, and maybe they don't.
    Pretty much. You can be aware of society views, but they shouldn't dictate your life imo.

    I would argue that, just as in a court case, the burden of proof lies with the challenging view. The original standard (the prevailing view) gets the benefit of the doubt. People aren't just followers: "society's views," as you put it, are set and evolve based on collective wisdom, whether or not people go through a conscious process to accept/reject the norm. That collective wisdom may not always be correct, but it deserves the assumption of correctness.
    When you hear of studies like Milgram or people getting thrown in jail for challenging religious authority/world being round. When you know how prone people are to self-serving biases/just world hypothesis/attribution errors/false understanding. I'm inclined to believe that chances are, alot of stuff that society promote could be wrong too.

    I don't believe for a second that we should assume that rules created in society are mostly correct, because they are constantly shifting and improving, not to mention that different cultures have different rules. Issues like homosexuality, freedom have only been raised up recently, following society views back then would have been supporting things against these things. So yeah, people really did just follow trends without putting that much thought into the matter.

    Collective wisdom simply is not good enough. It can act as a springboard for thought, but morality and everything should ultimately come from philosophy and indepth analysis of personal beliefs rather than just taking on shallow 'collective wisdom'. I really dislike saying this, suggesting that I'm otherwise, but I honestly believe many people don't introspect enough on where they are heading with their lives. The whole idea of just going with the flow in life attitudes reflect this.

    Lots of 'Common sense' doesn't really make that much sense when you really look into it.

  3. #43
    Senior Member Ruthie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kai View Post
    Pretty much. You can be aware of society views, but they shouldn't dictate your life imo.



    When you hear of studies like Milgram or people getting thrown in jail for challenging religious authority/world being round. When you know how prone people are to self-serving biases/just world hypothesis/attribution errors/false understanding. I'm inclined to believe that chances are, alot of stuff that society promote could be wrong too.

    I don't believe for a second that we should assume that rules created in society are mostly correct, because they are constantly shifting and improving, not to mention that different cultures have different rules. Issues like homosexuality, freedom have only been raised up recently, following society views back then would have been supporting things against these things. So yeah, people really did just follow trends without putting that much thought into the matter.

    Collective wisdom simply is not good enough. It can act as a springboard for thought, but morality and everything should ultimately come from philosophy and indepth analysis of personal beliefs rather than just taking on shallow 'collective wisdom'. I really dislike saying this, suggesting that I'm otherwise, but I honestly believe many people don't introspect enough on where they are heading with their lives. The whole idea of just going with the flow in life attitudes reflect this.

    Lots of 'Common sense' doesn't really make that much sense when you really look into it.
    I think we are looking at it from two different angles. Conformity to you is entirely conservative, and the only way to make progress is to challenge conventional wisdom. But the opposite is also true. It is a societal norm to treat people fairly and without prejudice. If a person went out in public and started using racial or sexual epithets, they would likely meet the disapproval of the people around them. People know it's socially unacceptable to be racist, sexist, or homophobic and most of them conform to that societal standard. Same with environmental issues: social pressure causes a lot of people to recycle or to drive fuel-efficient automobiles.

    Similarly, the fact that social norms are dynamic is evidence of collective wisdom. When something is wrong or unjust, people come around and norms change. In my experience, most people are pretty thoughtful and decent, even if they aren't constantly re-evaluating their inner processes.

    With regards to Milgram - that's exactly what I mean about generations being bombarded with anecdotes (or studies) about the evils of conformity. For the student of psychology, it might be Milgram's study. For people who just casually absorb cultural messages, could be anything from Dead Poets Society to Pleasantville to political candidates appropriating the use of the word "maverick." The anti-conformity message has been pretty well drilled in. But the positive associations of conformity (cooperation, compromise, unselfishness, sacrifice, humility, duty, and accountability) haven't been as well represented.

  4. #44
    Senior Member Nonsensical's Avatar
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    "Until the become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they they have rebelled they cannot become conscious."
    -Orwell

    We do not rebel. It is not human nature, because conforming is far more convenient and more safely guarantees survival. We can't blame ourselves, or anyone, for conforming because it is human nature.

    But when you look at the grand scheme of things, conformity is a recipe for universal disaster..like stacking up a tower far too tall, it's sure to fall.

    Let's just be aware of what we're doing. Let us be aware of how strong the power of individuality is.

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  5. #45
    Glowy Goopy Goodness The_Liquid_Laser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ruthie View Post
    I'll let you all debate the definition and the foundation of nonconformity.

    But, there does seem to be a common theme of de-valuing the norms of society - whether intentionally going against the grain, or simply going ones own way, which happens to be a different direction than the "mainstream."

    So, here's my question: if a personal value is in conflict with a societal value, why is it assumed that the more advanced and respectable choice is to remain in line with the personal value?

    Personal values seem a little empty and unchallenging to me. I think it would be pretty easy to live my life in accordance with my own beliefs.
    You know some fantastically intelligent people developed credit default swaps. That did not make it a good decision for anyone to conform to what they wanted them to do. The smartest financial institutions chose not to conform.

    Part of individuality is self-preservation. If a group offers nothing of benefit to the individual, then the individual should not be expected to conform to the group. It is rational for a person to follow the law when the law offers things like justice and safety to that individual, and it is equally rational for a person to despise the law when it does not offer safety or justice.

    So if there are a lot of people in a society that are "non-conformists", then there might be something wrong with the groups that they are choosing not to conform to.
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  6. #46
    Allergic to Mornings ergophobe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ruthie View Post
    I don't think it was something that changed in terms of how I felt, but more the ways I saw nonconformity operating in practice.

    -nonconformists need a foil, so they set up a conformist opponent. Invariably, the conformists they imagine are two-dimensional characters who do things without thinking and only because "that's the way they've always been done." In order for a nonconformist to feel a sense of identity, they need to see the majority as part of this thoughtless herd, and themselves as standing out from the crowd.
    Could you give us an example of these non-conformists? From your description above, it would be a very small group of people who would fall into this category. How do we decide who the conforming side is -- is it a majority view, is 30% or 40% of the population in support enough, when does it become the prevailing view? Could there be more than one prevailing view -- for example, those conjured up by the left and right in the United States have good support on either side. Which one would be conformist or are they both conformist views?

    -nonconformists often overestimate their intellect or their moral/ethical correctness. Imagine a job in which you have to make a decision. You believe one thing, while everyone else in the organization believes another. Absent all other evidence, wouldn't a person who kept their own abilities in perspective assume the error in judgment was their own and not everyone else's? But right now, the pendulum is so far in the other direction, that we make heroes out of the individual who holds strong to their original choice. We only hear about those stories when the individual is correct, and not in the more likely scenario in which the majority was correct, and the individual wrong.
    Well, most people who've made large scientific discoveries or were seminal to philosophical traditions have made them against the prevailing view or paradigm, right? Copernicus, Gallileo, Socrates, more recently -- Alfred Wegener (continental drift)....with a shift in paradigm. These were based on some combination of insight, intuition, intelligence and evidence...either way, they were ridiculed during their time. How do we then distinguish between those stepping away without cause and those with cause? Who are we to decide unless we have some objective way of evaluating their view? This is why I asked about standards. Without having some criteria for evaluation, how do you decide which non-conformist is worthy and which one isn't. Simply non-conforming can't be grounds for evaluation in itself.

    Also, why should we object to the non-conformists? I'm having the most trouble here.
    So far:
    1. They assume a deserved/undeserved ethical/intellectual high ground
    2. By definition they disagree with the prevailing view
    3. They may be wrong in the long run about their position (political, scientific, whatever)...

    What harm exactly does adopting a less prevalent position do? Who does it harm?

    On a personal note, I was always told to follow my own path. But the truth is that the things about me that were considered "different" weren't just different - they were shortcomings. For instance, I was always disorganized as a child. Rather than people telling me I was lazy, I was told that my mind just works differently. I'm now 30 years old, and I'm still disorganized. I no longer believe that it's my mind working differently than others - I believe that I should have been expected to conform to the basic level of order that others use. I should have been told that an objective standard does in fact exist, and that I wasn't special enough to fall outside of that standard.
    What is the conformist or non-conformist view here? Very confused. This has more to do with varying parenting skills or styles and taking responsibility as an adult than with conforming or not.

  7. #47
    Senior Member Ruthie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The_Liquid_Laser View Post
    You know some fantastically intelligent people developed credit default swaps. That did not make it a good decision for anyone to conform to what they wanted them to do. The smartest financial institutions chose not to conform.
    I don't understand - are you saying that the people who developed credit default swaps were conformists and the people who continued business as usual and didn't follow the "new financial pioneers" off a cliff were the nonconformists?

    Part of individuality is self-preservation. If a group offers nothing of benefit to the individual, then the individual should not be expected to conform to the group. It is rational for a person to follow the law when the law offers things like justice and safety to that individual, and it is equally rational for a person to despise the law when it does not offer safety or justice.

    So if there are a lot of people in a society that are "non-conformists", then there might be something wrong with the groups that they are choosing not to conform to.
    What do you think is wrong with the groups that they choose not to conform to?

  8. #48
    Senior Member Ruthie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ergophobe View Post
    Could you give us an example of these non-conformists? From your description above, it would be a very small group of people who would fall into this category. How do we decide who the conforming side is -- is it a majority view, is 30% or 40% of the population in support enough, when does it become the prevailing view? Could there be more than one prevailing view -- for example, those conjured up by the left and right in the United States have good support on either side. Which one would be conformist or are they both conformist views?
    I'm saying that it's the nonconformists who create the conformists and not the other way around. For instance, if you're a proud nonconformist Right-winger, then you probably see yourself as a holdout in a nation governed by a "liberal Establishment;" if you're a proud nonconformist Left-winger, then you are likely to see a nation of ignorant rednecks. Whatever viewpoint the nonconformist has, they always see themselves as distinct from, and not as part of, society.

    A "conformist" to me is someone who has a decent amount of respect for the wisdom of others. They see society as it is - mostly, but not always well-intentioned and decent. They see themselves as part of that society. They express their own ideas and opinions to persuade people within their sphere, and if another idea or opinion wins out, they assume it was stronger than their own. They raise their hands in class to argue a point with the teacher, but also give weight to the opinion of the teacher as someone who might know more than them. They vote for the candidate of their choice in elections, but if another candidate wins, they accept the result and the wisdom of the majority. They find common ground with their neighbors, and attempt to fit in by making polite chit-chat in the driveway without feeling the need to vent to someone later about how inane small talk can be.

    Well, most people who've made large scientific discoveries or were seminal to philosophical traditions have made them against the prevailing view or paradigm, right? Copernicus, Gallileo, Socrates, more recently -- Alfred Wegener (continental drift)....with a shift in paradigm. These were based on some combination of insight, intuition, intelligence and evidence...either way, they were ridiculed during their time. How do we then distinguish between those stepping away without cause and those with cause? Who are we to decide unless we have some objective way of evaluating their view? This is why I asked about standards. Without having some criteria for evaluation, how do you decide which non-conformist is worthy and which one isn't. Simply non-conforming can't be grounds for evaluation in itself.
    But for every Gallileo, Socrates, or Wegener (thanks for the note; I had no idea who Wegener was) there are a million cranks who are certain they've discovered a new way or a new idea. Many of them become the conspiracy theorists of our time [I had a conversation with a guy the other day who is fairly convinced that bombing the moon will lead to poison leaking out onto the Earth destroying the planet in about a decade. He's also pretty sure the government knows about it and is keeping it from us. Gallileo, he ain't.] Many others are just plain wrong, and a small percentage of nonconformists are psychopathic - feeling no connection to society and no understanding of other's perspectives. You're pulling out the noteworthy exceptions to the rule, and using them as evidence of the rule itself.

    As for criteria for evaluation, hell, I don't know, I'm just spitballing ideas here. I'm not a sociologist. I'm just taking a look at what's around me and observing that as a general rule, we could use a little less questioning and a little more humility.

    Also, why should we object to the non-conformists? I'm having the most trouble here.
    So far:
    1. They assume a deserved/undeserved ethical/intellectual high ground
    2. By definition they disagree with the prevailing view
    3. They may be wrong in the long run about their position (political, scientific, whatever)...

    What harm exactly does adopting a less prevalent position do? Who does it harm?
    If everyone does it, it harms society. We wouldn't be able to reach even basic consensus. Eventually, we'd have to reconsider our entire social contract.

    What is the conformist or non-conformist view here? Very confused. This has more to do with varying parenting skills or styles and taking responsibility as an adult than with conforming or not.
    The point is that there are certain external standards that we should strive to meet. Since nobody will be naturally gifted at meeting them all, people might have to try harder than others at some things. I'm naturally disorganized, and I should've been expected to be like others in that regard. That is the nature of conformity. The alternative is to deny external standards exist, and be happy with ourselves the way we are. I've heard it said that everyone born in the last 45 years is part of the "self-esteem generation." It was more important for us to feel good about ourselves than it was to push us to conform to existing standards.

  9. #49
    Senior Member Snow Turtle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ruthie View Post
    I think we are looking at it from two different angles. Conformity to you is entirely conservative, and the only way to make progress is to challenge conventional wisdom. But the opposite is also true. It is a societal norm to treat people fairly and without prejudice. If a person went out in public and started using racial or sexual epithets, they would likely meet the disapproval of the people around them. People know it's socially unacceptable to be racist, sexist, or homophobic and most of them conform to that societal standard. Same with environmental issues: social pressure causes a lot of people to recycle or to drive fuel-efficient automobiles.

    Similarly, the fact that social norms are dynamic is evidence of collective wisdom. When something is wrong or unjust, people come around and norms change. In my experience, most people are pretty thoughtful and decent, even if they aren't constantly re-evaluating their inner processes.

    With regards to Milgram - that's exactly what I mean about generations being bombarded with anecdotes (or studies) about the evils of conformity. For the student of psychology, it might be Milgram's study. For people who just casually absorb cultural messages, could be anything from Dead Poets Society to Pleasantville to political candidates appropriating the use of the word "maverick." The anti-conformity message has been pretty well drilled in. But the positive associations of conformity (cooperation, compromise, unselfishness, sacrifice, humility, duty, and accountability) haven't been as well represented.
    When I talk to people, for me it's true that many people are thoughtful and decent, however I don't believe that individual views represent collective thinking. In my experience, group-thinking is different to individual thinking, as people are more likely to present to others what they think are the socially acceptable views.

    Ultimately, waiting for society shifts, is just too much of a slow process. Yes, it's the social norm to be against prejudice now and be liberal minded. But you can't deny this is only a recent social shift, and a shift that many people paid the price for when going against the social norm back then.

    Another issue with the whole idea, is that, when looking at things from a more global perspective. What is the social norm suddenly? Why are there contrasting social norms and which one should be followed? A prime example would be gun laws and the death penalty within the UK. Considering that these are contrasting social norms, it should be evident that different places have different views and thus social norms should be questioned all the time, whether it is the most effective way of living. The issue here is associating disagreement with disrespect.

    If everyone does it, it harms society. We wouldn't be able to reach even basic consensus. Eventually, we'd have to reconsider our entire social contract.
    Western society is doing exactly this though. It's encouraging people to be more liberal and individualistic, and oddly enough it seems to be working just fine. All that has been done, is to have the cap lifted off individuals true intentions. There's not much to this idea of 'norms' as speaking to people individually, you'll quickly notice that everyone has a different idea of it.

    I'm just taking a look at what's around me and observing that as a general rule, we could use a little less questioning and a little more humility.
    Humility, in my eyes, is about opening everything to questioning, as the individual and society may know nothing.

  10. #50
    Glowy Goopy Goodness The_Liquid_Laser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ruthie View Post
    I don't understand - are you saying that the people who developed credit default swaps were conformists and the people who continued business as usual and didn't follow the "new financial pioneers" off a cliff were the nonconformists?
    The people who developed the credit default swaps were not the conformists. The institutions who issued and traded credit default swaps were the conformists. Also the institutions who bundled sub-prime mortgage backed securities were confromists. Financial institutions which did not do these things had a hard time staying competitive, but at the same time I think they knew what they were doing excessively risky.

    So each institution had two choices: engage in risky behavior and make money in the short term, or play it safe and lose business. Well all of the cool kids were playing with credit default swaps and sub-prime mortgage backed securities. So it was very tempting to be a conformist and do likewise. The conformists who decided to be risky ended up seriously harming the world economy. Perhaps it would have been better if they chose not to conform?


    What do you think is wrong with the groups that they choose not to conform to?
    Depends on the specific example. In the US the crime rate tends to be higher amoung people living in poverty. They would not see neither the US economic system nor the US legal system as benevolent institutions because they are living in poverty. Consequently they are the most likely to steal. The police are more likely to harm them than help them, so they have no respect for the law in general. Middle class Americans are less likely to steal, because they do not need to steal. The US economic system has been much more benevolent to them. Wealthy institutions are the most likely to resolve issues in court, because they believe they can get justice there. People with less money are unlikely to receive justice in court and the costs are especially expensive, so they are more hesitant to go to court to seek justice.

    These are just a few of many examples. You could also say in a high school kids that are ostracized from the "cool crowd" are more likely to be non-conformists. The principal I'm stating applies to any situation where the group is not viewed as benevolent to the individual.
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