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Conformity Vs. Individualism Essay

2744 words - 11 pages

We’ve all know what it feels like: walking down the halls in middle school or high school while you feel like you’re being watched…analyzed…critiqued. It would almost seem like every person you passed would be silently judging you for what you’re wearing, how you applied your makeup, how you did in the last soccer game, or what they heard you did with Jonny. The passerby’s in the hallway would place you on the high-school-hierarchy-of-coolness scale based on superficial characteristics even before getting to know you. Adolescence is a time of learning and forming an identity but it’s also a time where you are constantly being watched and evaluated by your peers, sometimes even put down by physical or verbal means. Bullying has always been a problem in school settings but was never really recognized for its malignant effects until recently. Due to the push of bullying awareness in the past fifteen years and the influences of pop culture, there has been a noticeable shift in our culture’s definition of “cool”.

The word “cool” takes on many meanings. It’s used to describe temperature and also a “calmness, composure, and poise”. (Dictionary.com) But it has also taken on another definition over the years to express “approval, acceptance, and admiration”. We describe things to be “cool” every day without even realizing it. We use it to describe new music that we found and want our friends to like saying, “I just found this new artist and she’s so cool you have to listen to her!” Something “cool” is something well received by the general public. Something that is accepted by the majority. Conforming to social norms is a part of a being human and we rarely even notice that we’re doing it. We conform when we stop at a red light because it’s a law and when we purchase items with money instead of trading. We don’t mean to just follow what everyone else is doing because we’re afraid to do our own thing, but we have an understanding that certain concepts are needed to conform to in order to keep everyone in society on the same level playing field. But conforming to what the majority is doing because it is deemed as cool is a whole different story. Instead of conforming to keep society running smoothly, we sometimes conform due to fear that we will receive hateful backlash for breaking against the norm or in fear that we will be wrong. Solomon Asch explains the latter reason when he conducted an experiment to investigate the extent to which social pressure from a majority group could affect a person to conform. In his experiment, there was only one true participant and 4 other fake participants that will help prove his point correct. Cards were shown to everyone where there were lines of different length illustrated. They all had to choose which line was the longest. The first four people at the table were the fake participants and purposely chose the wrong answers. The last person was the true participant in the experiment and in all of the experiments...

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