I attended middle school in Washington, D.C. My family and I had lived there for seven years and became much atoned to an urban way of life. At the end of sixth grade, my parents decided for me to switch schools for high-school. We moved two hours south to Charlottesville, Virginia. The move was a complete culture shock and a role reversal to me. Everything was different about being in the rich, southern, country town. I had to make new friends and develop new interests in order to fit in and have a fun time. Living in a historic mill on the James River gave me the opportunity to pick up fishing. This was a foreign activity for me, although it proved to be a lot of fun. Fishing for me became a great outlet and a great way to make new friends at school. I now had a similar interest with my new group of peers and a great piece of property to take people fishing on. I really began to like fishing and the whole idea of living in the country.
This story is a great example of the conformity theory. It picks up on key aspects of normative and informational social influences. There are also different types of power at work as well as some unintentional conformity. My conformity was mainly due to normative social influence and the fact that I wanted to be liked by my new friends. I was following implicit and reciprocity norms as well. I would invite people fishing not merely to fish with them because it was something people around Charlottesville did, but also because in the future I hoped they would invite me fishing. I exhibited a bit of public compliance, whereby I would fish to show others that I indeed liked to go fishing, whether or not I actually did. But over time I gained private acceptance to fishing.
I really believed that it was something I loved. The social impact was strong in my case because the group was very important to me to fit in with and it was a fairly large group I wanted to be accepted by. There was also some informational social influence in my decision to become an angler. I experienced a conversion because the more I fished and thought about fishing, the more I developed new ideas and philosophies about it. I also experienced informational social influence because of expertise. I was uninformed about fishing and felt that this group of kids must know something about why fishing is so great that I didn’t. My behavior was influenced because I felt that I had to give fishing a try to see what I was missing. This also exemplifies the use of expert power.
My peers had power over me because I was the new kid and they knew the accepted behavior in Charlottesville. They had more knowledge than me because they had lived there longer. There was also referent power involved because I thought fishing was something that the “cool” kids did. I admired them and they, subsequently, had power over my behavior. This is where unintentional conformity gets involved. My peers never intended to influence my behavior. I decided to change my behavior to be like them. They did not try to turn me into an angler. This falls under the response facilitation theory, in which I confirmed in response to behaviors that the others already were engaging in. In the process, the factors that really influenced my behavior were social comparison and reciprocation. I made sure that I behaved appropriately around others who I wished to be liked by, and I also behaved to give and, hopefully, get in return favors. My behavior was conformed because of the social influence a new environment has, and because I wanted to fit in with a new group of people.