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Thread: Conformity

  1. #51
    Senior Member compulsiverambler'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.
    None of those good things is caused by conformity. Neuroscience and animal studies strongly suggest that the Golden Rule is present at birth, it's a fairly primitive evolutionary trait resulting from the fact that we have the capacity to empathise. It can be partially beaten out of us, but not beaten into us. No one is born racist or sexist, we're all born with certain instincts, including the instinct to treat others well until they make us angry in some way OR until we're conditioned to stop fully empathising with them or come to believe false things about them.

  2. #52
    Lex Parsimoniae Xander's Avatar
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    Okay this is getting really stupid now. Being a conformist or a non conformist has NOTHING to do with what you do except as an end result. It is WHY you are doing it.

    A conformist accepts the norm, the well known, the generally accepted.
    A non conformist does not accept the norm, the well known, the generally accepted unless they validate it themselves.

    If you guys want to have a conversation about whether conformING is bad then fine but you're mostly talking rubbish.
    Isn't it time for a colourful metaphor?

  3. #53
    meh Salomé's Avatar
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    Progress can only be achieved by non-conformity. If you are in favour of progress you cannot be a conformist.

    Conformity is one of mankind's greatest evils. The Holocaust would have been impossible without it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ruthie View Post
    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.
    Only because of non-conformists like Rosa Parks.
    Similarly, the fact that social norms are dynamic is evidence of collective wisdom.
    It's evidence that non-conformity yields beneficial results.

    You are failing to consider the question in its proper historical context.
    Last edited by Salomé; 11-30-2009 at 08:12 AM. Reason: I read thread
    Quote Originally Posted by Ivy View Post
    Gosh, the world looks so small from up here on my high horse of menstruation.

  4. #54
    Senior Member Ruthie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Morgan Le Fay View Post
    Progress can only be achieved by non-conformity. If you are in favour of progress you cannot be a conformist.

    Conformity is one of mankind's greatest evils. The Holocaust would have been impossible without it.

    Only because of non-conformists like Rosa Parks.
    It's evidence that non-conformity yields beneficial results.

    You are failing to consider the question in its proper historical context.
    It's funny, because I was going to use Rosa Parks to make the opposite argument. She didn't act alone - she conformed to the rules laid out by the local NAACP. In fact, the only reason her situation sparked the bus boycott was because she fit in to society very well, and could bridge the divide between the local civil rights establishment (E.D. Nixon, Clifford and Virginia Durr) and the young ministers (King and Abernathy). Parks did everything exactly as she was trained to do it, by the NAACP and at the Highlander School. Less than a year before Parks' arrest, teenager Claudette Colvin was arrested for the same offense. Her arrest didn't spark a boycott because she truly was a nonconformist - a rogue individual who didn't conform to society's standards of acceptability (she was pregnant with a married man's child) or standards of civil rights activism (she cursed at the arresting officer, and had not been an established activist before her arrest).

    There were other rogue (nonconformist) civil rights activists - James Meredith comes to mind - but they were usually the least effective. Meredith had relatively little respect from the civil rights community. He didn't see himself as part of anything.

    There is a tendency to label any person involved in social progress as a nonconformist, but that just isn't the case. Every community and every movement has its mix of conformists (who choose to fit in, become loyal foot soldiers to the cause, train others in the standards of the movement) and nonconformists (who, like Meredith, join nothing and act on behalf of themselves). You can't just list the names of heroes and dub them nonconformists.

  5. #55
    meh Salomé's Avatar
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    ^
    According to your own definition, she was a non-conformist:

    Quote Originally Posted by Ruthie
    It was more important for us to feel good about ourselves than it was to push us to conform to existing standards.
    Existing standards = status quo

    A non-conformist doesn't have to be someone who blazes a trail or rebels against everything and everyone for the sake of asserting their own unique identity. Simply someone who "refuses to be bound by, accepted beliefs, customs, or practices." You can't seriously argue that this doesn't apply to the Civil Rights Movement, or to Park's actions that day.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ivy View Post
    Gosh, the world looks so small from up here on my high horse of menstruation.

  6. #56
    Senior Member Ruthie's Avatar
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    But who's existing standards? Your definition of "status quo" is narrow - it's basically just referring to a conservative, white Establishment.

    Let's stick with the bus boycott:

    For more than a year, almost no African Americans in Montgomery rode the bus system. The reason for its success was mostly social pressure within the community. By your logic, all those who stayed off the buses were nonconformists (fighting a status quo) and those few African Americans who disregarded the boycott and rode the bus were the conformists!

    That seems ridiculous on its face. The people who broke the boycott and rode the buses were nonconformists because they disregarded the norms of their society. Those who bravely participated were conforming to what they were expected to do by the community. That boycott would've been impossible without being able to rely on individuals deferring to a group agenda.

  7. #57
    meh Salomé's Avatar
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    You are being ridiculous. I don't have to invent my own definitions in order to form an argument - to that extent, I'm a conformist!

    I don't believe you've even managed to convince yourself.
    Quote Originally Posted by Ivy View Post
    Gosh, the world looks so small from up here on my high horse of menstruation.

  8. #58
    Senior Member Ruthie's Avatar
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    Just because I've actually put some thought into the nature of conformity doesn't quite count as inventing my own definition. I'm just trying to reconsider the idea that all bad things are the result of conformity, and all great things are the result of nonconformity. The term "conformist" is never applied to people joining and following worthy causes of social progress, and the term "nonconformist" is never used to describe people like Timothy McVeigh.

  9. #59
    Lex Parsimoniae Xander's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ruthie View Post
    Just because I've actually put some thought into the nature of conformity doesn't quite count as inventing my own definition. I'm just trying to reconsider the idea that all bad things are the result of conformity, and all great things are the result of nonconformity. The term "conformist" is never applied to people joining and following worthy causes of social progress, and the term "nonconformist" is never used to describe people like Timothy McVeigh.
    Your thinking is faulty and it matters not how many times you reiterate it.

    Conforming and conformist are two separate concepts.

    Conforming or not conforming has nothing to do with whether you are a conformist.

    A conformist conforms for no reason at all except that other people are doing it. A non conformist may do exactly the same thing as a conformist but will have reason to do so (even faulty reasoning isn't exactly an automatic rejection of the title of non conformist).

    A conformist will wear clothes which fit in with the crowd. They don't stand out, they are cattle. A non conformist is the girl who wears pink shoes with blue jeans and doesn't care. A non conformist is the guy who walks into a pub with a book under his arm.

    This is why I've been posting the definitions up and various other bits. Non conformist is NOT "does not follow other's lead", that is non sequiturs. All that non conformist means is that they will not follow convention just because it's convention. They may well follow it but they will have thought about it first and will have a reason for it.

    If the daily mail is the biggest selling newspaper the conformist will buy it because every body else buys it. The non conformist might also buy it but he/ she will have a reason other than "well, everyone else reads it so I thought I would".

    Note that this is completely different from following what most people do when you are lacking the necessary information or skill to decide. That is following collective wisdom because you're lacking the capability to analyse it adequately to decide whether or not to follow it.
    Isn't it time for a colourful metaphor?

  10. #60
    Senior Member matmos's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Xander View Post
    Conforming and conformist are two separate concepts.
    Here's the fella:

    Equivocation - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Ruthie is fooled by language.

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