Caving in to social pressure-such as saying that you love a movie because friends do-makes for good vibes about being part of a group and can produce more of the same conduct, according to a Baylor University sociological study.
The finding has implications for people ranging from philanthropists to gangs, researchers said.
"The punch line is very simple: Conformity leads to positive feelings, attachments, solidarity-and these are what motivate people to continue their behavior," said Kyle Irwin, Ph.D., an assistant professor of sociology at Baylor and lead author.
The research, funded by the National Science Foundation, explores conformity and contributions for the "greater good."
The researchers' experiments showed similar results in groups in which it was the norm to make sacrifices for others, as well as in groups where the norm was "to slack off," Irwin said.
"In both cases, participants reported nearly identical levels of attachment to the group, and then continued to follow the norm in subsequent interactions," he added.
Irwin and co-author Brent Simpson, Ph.D., a sociology professor at the University of South Carolina, say the results may be significant for positive collective efforts, such as building public parks, funding public television and radio, or voting.
But the same process holds for negative behaviors as well. In those instances where group norms prescribe acting selfishly, positive sentiments promote continuing these unwanted actions, Irwin said.
"Examples of this might include gangs or other criminal groups where it may be normative to achieve very little according to society's standards, and to continue to do so because there is positive regard among group members. In other words, they may be happy in their mutual non-cooperativeness," he said.
The research has been published in the sociology journal Social Forces. (ANI)