Psychology 101: Monkey See, Monkey Do

Welcome back to Psychology 101! Today’s post is going to be a little different than last week’s (but don’t worry it will be equally as enjoyable). This week’s post is going to focus less on cute furry animals (I know, it saddens me too) and more on how and why humans act the way we do. Specifically: conformity!

I want to start off with asking have you ever heard the saying “monkey see, monkey do?” There are a few different interpretations of this saying—but my understanding of it is when a person sees someone doing something they start doing the same thing. Or in other words, they mimic the other person. Older siblings will know they can apply this saying easily to little children. You’re definitely lying if you’ve never tried to teach your younger sibling a bad word by repeating it to them over and over.

Most of you are probably wondering why I’d bring this up. I mean we’re not children anymore! Aren’t we all independent and well rounded IB learners? We would never copy each other! But the truth is we copy and follow each other a lot more than we’d like to admit. The fancy psychology word for this is conformity. Now that you’ve all been introduced to what conformity is, let’s go further.

Firstly…how do we know that humans really conform, and it’s not just nonsense?

This is a question a very famous psychologist wanted to know too. By conducting an experiment Asch wanted to find out whether or not people really do conform and for what reasons.

Here’s a link to the experiment if you would like to see it.

In short during Asch’s experiment he chose around 6-8 people for each trial, but all of them expect one was in on the experiment (they’re called confederates). They were all shown two cards—one with a line and one with three different lines. Their job was to find which line out of the three best matched the singular line on the other card. However the catch was the confederates all said the wrong answer. The experiment was to test whether the last remaining person would say the right answer or conform to what everybody else said. The results showed that in most cases the individual did conform.

But why do people conform?

The main reasons why you’d conform are:

  • you don’t want to look stupid.
  • you have, like, no backbone.
  • you believe people are going to judge you.
  • you generally don’t know the answer and might as well copy someone else.
  • you thought you knew the answer, but now that you know what everyone else said you actually believe that their answer is correct and you’re just dumb.
  • you don’t want to be the odd one out.

Lastly, is conformity a good thing or a bad thing?

Honestly it depends. For starters, conformity can be a brilliant thing which can save you from completely embarrassing yourself. For example, you and your family might all be attending a wedding together at your local church. When you get there you realised you all read the invitation wrong and it’s actually a funeral. Due to conformity, you and your family are able to take in the situation and learn what’s socially acceptable. Instead of walking around with smiles on your faces, saying congratulations to the host you’re able to understand that you should probably act more somber (and probably change into more appropriate attire).

However conformity doesn’t always rescue you from making a fool out of yourself. In some cases it can scar you for life. I’m serious. What if, for example, you’re going out with your friends and they all want to see a horror movie! You’re absolutely terrified but you’re the only who doesn’t want to go. You don’t want to be left out so you end up conforming and agreeing to go. After the movie it turns out you were right all along and because of your inability not to conform you’re going be traumatised for the rest of your life and will never be able to sleep without having nightmares ever again.

So to finish this off conformity will definitely affect your behaviour regardless of whether it’s in a positive or negative way. Hopefully after reading this post you have a better understanding of conformity and are one step closer to uncovering the secrets of your mind!


One Comment Add yours

  1. Suphanat_Is says:

    It seems like Bandura, and social learning theory is fun now. It won’t be in your May 2019. 🙂


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