What are some positives and negatives to conformity? What are some positives and negatives to conformity?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Conforming allows us to get along in the world and save our energy for life's more important battles. For example, we could spend our lives insisting we want to drive on the wrong side of the road or go up the down escalator. We can do both those things, because we have free will, but we will earn ourselves a good deal of grief in the process, especially if we drive on the wrong side of the road. We might ask ourselves, what is the point of not conforming to these rules, made to keep everyone safe and in order?

Asking this question, however, leads us to the negative side of conformity. Sometimes there is reason to question the rules that keep society in "order." Conformity to what hurts another group of people, for example, is unethical, even if it is legal or socially acceptable.  People who stood up to slavery did so at some cost to themselves, but they helped end an unjust system. Germans have been criticized for not standing up more forcefully against the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany. Sometimes non-conformity is essential to fight barbarism or cruelty. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles
The biggest positive of conformity is acceptance. When you conform, people will be more willing to accept you because you are falling in line with what they expect of you. The negatives are that you give up your individuality and may have to compromise your principles.
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

It depends on what the person is conforming to. I do think conforming is positive in regards to setting social standards (such as eye contact, shaking hands, dressing "appropriately," respecting ones personal space etc). Thus, a person conforming to these social and cultural norms may be accepted and "fit in" in various social settings. I think we all conform to those particular things without putting much thought into it.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The major positive to conformity would be the fact that people who conform generally do not run the risk of being ostracized by their peers.  People who act in "normal" ways tend to be pretty well accepted.

The major negative to conformity is that it can force a person to be someone who they are not.  An extreme case of this would be a gay person who is forced to stay in the closet by the need to conform.  A person who suppresses a really important part of their self in hopes of conforming can harm themselves psychologically.

So, conformity is really a tradeoff between being accepted by others on the one hand and losing part of your real identity on the other.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

Posted on

Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial