So I wanted to demonstrate Conformity by choosing something that most of us do on a daily basis. Conformity is the tendency to alter our actions, thoughts, opinions, and behaviors in ways that are most like the group norms (Milgram & Sabini 1978). People tend to believe that they are not the conforming type, but for the most part we conform all the time. When you got into your tux/gown for prom or formal you were conforming! You're even conforming by wearing your underwear underneath your pants.
I watched as people walked around the seal and I noticed myself following them around. When I first got here I didn't even know why I was walking around it, but I did it anyway, because everyone else was doing it. Later I heard about the rumor that if you cross or walk on the seal you are doomed to failure at SU. I know that whether or not I fail here at SU does not depend on me stepping on the giant seal, yet I still walk around it. Whenever I see people walk through the seal I'm filled with dread for the future... It's ridiculous how I have started to adapt this view of someone crossing the seal as being abnormal and scary.
When I first came to SU and had no idea why I was walking around the seal, I was conforming under a normative influence. I was steering clear of the seal because I was afraid of what it would mean if I did walk on it. Would I be uncool for walking on it? Was it against the rules to walk on it? I wasn't about to commit social suicide just by stepping on a seal. People who deviate from the norm are rejected, disliked, and ridiculed (Deutsch & Gerard 1955).
Later, after I learned the superstitious story behind the seal I could have begun to believe the superstition itself and started to walk around it for safety's safe. Had I started to believe the story as correct I would have been acting under an informational influence (Crutchfield 1955). The idea that following the collective wisdom of your peers is comforting and may provide you some kind of peace every time you mosey around that seal, "If I never step on it, I'll never FAIL!" Most of these people who begin to believe the information they are told are privately conforming. Private conformity, which can also be called true acceptance or conversion, occurs when we start to change our behavior as well as our mental perspectives on things (Allen 1965).
For those of us who continue to maneuver around the seal without any fear of failure are publicly conforming. Public conformity, also known as compliance, is only an outward change of behavior. No inner thoughts or beliefs are altered in the process, you are just publicly pretending to do what is "normal." This type of conformity is associated with normative influence because people seek to fit in while still keeping their true perceptions and beliefs to themselves (Kelman 1961).
Personally I think the administration started the rumor about the seal to keep people off of it. If the number of students who stay off the seal each year began to walk on it, it would eventually be worn down and then the beloved seal would be ruined! haha
Allen, V.L. (1965). Situational factors in conformity. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 2, 133-175.
Crutchfield, R.S. (1955). Conformity and character. American Psychologist, 10, 195-198.
Deutsch, M., & Gerard, H.B. (1955). A study of normative and informational social influences upon individual judgement. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 51, 629-636.
Kelman, H.C. (1961). Processes of opinion change. Public Opinion Quarterly, 25, 57-78.
Milgram, S., & Sabini, J. (1978). On maintaining urban norms: A field experiment in the subway. In A. Baum, J.E. Singer, & S. Valins (Eds.), Advances in environmental psychology, (Vol. 1). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.