What is good about conformity and what is bad about conformity?

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e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Conformity, generally, can bring safety - both actual physical safety and social safety.

Conformity describes the adaptation of behavior that occurs in response to unspoken group pressure.

When a person conforms to social norms, he (or she) is communicating to the community that he understands and basically agrees with the culture around him. This tacit agreement can serve to smooth social relations. By signifying that he is not a threat, the conforming individual gains access to the community, reduces the possibility of negative attention and intentional isolation.

Discovering a sense of belonging is made somewhat easier by conforming to the community's codes of behavior, dress, and speech. The conforming individual is adopting a culture, effectively, and often is able to do this very naturally. 

In most cases, conforming to social norms is so natural that people aren't even aware they are doing it unless someone calls it to their attention or violates the norms.

The negatives side of conformity is more individually defined. There is a possibility that conforming to social codes will run against the grain of an individual's personality, upbringing or conscience. Conformity, in these cases, poses the threat of co-opting integral elements of the individual.

In extreme cases, conformity with a group may lead to negative behavior and beliefs. This can happen, for example in the case of gangs or bigoted communities (such as Nazi Germany or the Ku Klux Klan). Individuals who conform to the values of these groups can be led literally to crime through conformity.

More generally, the negative side of conformity can be expressed in the idea a potential compromise of personal values and integrity. 

Ideas of conformity have been explored widely in literature. The works of Mark Twain, George Orwell, and Ray Bradbury take a particular interest in the effects of conformity and the decisions that surround this issue. 

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