This is the 2007 version. Click here for the 2017 chapter 15 table of contents.


Social psychology is about how people interact. Being part of psychology, it focuses on psychological processes that accompany those interactions. The topics in this chapter, such as obedience, conformity, persuasion, and first impressions, all involve how individuals respond to other people and influence other people.

Conformity is likeness or similarity of behavior and appearance. A conformist is one who tries to be the same as everyone else. A non-conformist tries to be different. Most people feel anxiety if they stand out as different from other people, so most people feel a strong pressure toward conformity to avoid this anxiety and fit into the group.

What is conformity? What pattern was shown by Floyd Allport's j-curve of conformity?

Allport (1935) on the J-curve of conformity

Floyd Allport's J-curve of conformity

In 1935, Floyd Allport proposed that conformity followed a regular pattern. In a publication titled, "The J-curve hypothesis of conforming behavior" (1935). Allport suggested that most people conform to social rules, but some people deviate from the norm. Small deviations are most common; larger deviations are more rare.

For example, consider the speed of motorists going through a stop sign. The social rule (the law) says everybody is supposed to come to a full stop at a stop sign. In reality, most people stop, but many people "slide through" (which can earn them a ticket) and some people-comparatively few-drive through at higher speeds. If the data were put on a graph, it would look like a J-shaped curve. The higher the speed (and the greater the non-conformity) the more rare is the event.

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