The society is a significant component of human behaviour. Everything we do or think has a shade of the need for social acceptance. Of course, there are deviations and exceptions to this rule. This need to be accepted by a certain social group is social conformity.
We are social beings. And hence we feel the need to be accepted by the society. We do this by trying to imitate the social conventions around us. If everyone wears black at a funeral, you must too. We try and stick to social conventions so that the society can accept us.
When a human with healthy social relationships makes a decision, he always takes into account the social ramifications of the decision. This being said, there are certain exceptions to this rule though.
In one of the previous posts of Learn Psychology, we learnt about ‘Maslow’s Hierarchy‘. It states that certain desires when left unfulfilled, gain more priority than other desires. For example, if you are extremely hungry, trapped in a snowy cave with the dead body of your friend. In normal situations, eating your friend would be considered socially unacceptable. But in this case, your hunger would override your need for social conformity and you would consume the flesh of your friend- not because you are a psychopath, but because you didn’t have any other choice – In a life threatening scenario, your self-preservation instinct dominates any other need.
Also according to Maslow, until you are satisfied physiologically (hunger, sleep, sex) and also feel safe, you will not move on to garnering social acceptance. This might also be the psychological explanation why people get cranky if they don’t get enough sleep or food.
There are exceptions to the need for social conformity. People with psychological ailments don’t always necessarily stick to social conventions. In some cases, their altered perception of the world comes in conflict with their social perception. This causes them to behave in socially unacceptable ways.
There is another class of exceptions to the rule. There are people in this world who despite the lack of a psychological ailment, choose to not live by one or more of the social conventions. This is completely normal since most of the modern day counselling curriculum teaches us to embrace our differences and celebrate them. ‘Everyone is unique.’ is the worldwide slogan for embracing uniqueness.
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