Conformity Starts Earlier than You Might Expect

conformityAlex Pietrowski, Staff Writer
Waking Times

The human mind easily adapts and conforms to ideas, behaviors and the environment around it, often as a means of fitting in and surviving. Most people are content to follow along with what others are doing, even if it transforms them to the point that they do not recognize themselves. Over time, one’s convictions morph to what is widely acceptable in society, destructive acts are deemed constructive and necessary, succumbing to authority is considered necessary, and blurring the lines of morality becomes the norm.

Once the mind is programmed, it often runs on autopilot. It is up to the individual to recognize that their behavior is self-destructive, perhaps not physically but psychologically, and that it may be detrimental to others, as well as society or the Earth as a whole. The process of recognition, followed by non-conformity, would usually occur once a person entered adulthood. Sadly, in today’s world, adults often cling to childish behaviors and eccentricities, thus delaying the process of self-evaluation and personal evolution further and further into their lives.

The subtle system of rewards, comforts and punishments experienced throughout life is what molds us into who we become. For many of us, it means that we act in ways to ensure that others like us, accept us and respect us. By adulthood, many people find themselves trapped in relationships, jobs, marriages, and/or social roles that are completely disconnected from their true nature. Many lose the connection with who they really are and what they really want out of life. Over time, it becomes more difficult to gather up the courage to unleash the real self.

Our desire to fit in with a group and our willingness to change our behavior to do so start at a very early age – as early as two years old, suggests a new study out of the Max Plank Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, located in Leipzig, Germany. The research team that conducted the study, led by psychologist author Daniel Haun, studied two-year-old children, chimpanzees and orangutans who were given a ball to drop into a box divided into three sections, one of which resulted in a reward (chocolate for the children and a peanut for the apes). Here’s what happened:

After the participants figured out how to get the treat on the first try, they watched as untrained peers did the same activity but without any reward. Then the roles were flipped, and the participants took another turn while being watched by the others. More than half the time the children mimicked their novice peers and dropped the ball into the sections that did not produce chocolate. The apes, on the other hand, stuck to their prizewinning behaviors. The children did not simply forget the right answer—if no one watched them, they were far less likely to abandon the winning choice. (Source)

The human desire to conform seems to be natural, or at least it develops at a very early age. It lessens exclusion and ridicule during the early years and, often, results in a form of stability and social comfort during early adulthood. Yet, it also means that we are easily swayed to follow the majority, even if the majority is being influenced through heavy media programming and corporatized political system into negative thought, destructive habits, blind submission to authority, and consumerism.

“The broad message to young people nowadays is to conform and submit to norms and phony authority rather than to develop personal integrity, personal liberty and true happiness. Society beckons our youth to imitate others, to compete with others for no end, to pick a team and stay with them till the bitter end, and to neglect the most important virtues in life like spirituality, intellect and compassion.” ~ Dylan Charles, Editor,

It is easy to feed the human desire for conformity, therefore it will take effort to recognize unproductive behaviors. Non-conformity may seem outlandish to our peers but it will allow your true self to pursue a path in life that feeds another natural instinct – the pursuit of happiness.

About the Author

Alex Pietrowski is an artist and writer concerned with preserving good health and the basic freedom to enjoy a healthy lifestyle. He is a staff writer for and an avid student of Yoga and life.


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  • Tom

    The research result that human children could be induced to give up chocolate (!) in order to conform reminded me of my observation about soldiers and war: That they will spend months or years in great danger and deprivation, suffering awful discomforts, away from family and loved ones, seeing and doing things that may well drive them at least inwardly insane, yet they can’t bring themselves in advance of their enlistment to watch a few hours of documentaries or read a couple of books which would prove to them that all of their sacrifice will be in vain, and for all the wrong reasons. To enlist or not to enlist should strictly be preceded by the most full and accurate information available — never to conform.

  • I agree with you Roger.
    That is the psychological purpose from believing in God, the One who offers unconditional love.
    That is Why Jesus said to prefer him over your mother, father, etc.
    Once a person feels comfortable with that, relationships add to our lives – they are not something we should feel forced to encounter.
    Don Levit

  • Roger

    The desire to fit in starts at BIRTH as it is absolutely essential for the new born baby to fit in so that it can be fed and protected. It is essential for its survival! It is utterly helpless otherwise and he/ she instinctively knows this.

  • Kyle
    Sorry for any confusion but I agree with everything you said about Jesus especially the transforming part
    He did make that statement or someone did about conforming to the likeness of his son which is a revolutionary way of viewing conformity
    I can appreciate your idea of group think in organized religion
    That is why I attend Chabad an orthodox Jewish synagogue on Saturday and a Presbyterian Church on Sunday
    Yes I play by the rules especially at Chabad but do find more freedom of expression at the church
    Using both is quite fascinating and enlightening
    Using one would be suffocating
    Don Levit

  • You make a good point about controlling others being a natural phenomenon
    It would be more natural for those in
    Power – specifically the 10 percent who own 80 percent of the stocks
    For the rest of us we naturally yearn to use our gifts talents and abilities to make our world a better more sustainable place to live
    Don Levit

    • Kyle


      I think you need to expand upon your statement because at first glance is does appear to enforce the idea of mindless conformity.

      First let us not forget that Christ had NO, NONE, ZERO connections or conformity with the elite ruling class.

      He wanted nothing to do with any earthly connections to people in power including the Romans or the Jewish power elite.

      He was also quick to cut down the Sadducees and Pharisees with a well timed and yes conflict generating parable.

      Basically he didn’t want us to conform but to “transform” and to be “transformed”.

      Christianity today is largely just another cult and is mired in group think which we call Church.

      I don’t go to church but I read and study and grow as an individual while delving deeper into my own consciousness.

      Once you do this you really begin to realize that this world is one big mess of different cults within cults within cults.

      I’ll give you one typical example which is common in America. First one may identify as a Christian, then as a specific sect (baptist, Methodist, Catholic, whatever) Then as a Republican (typically), then as a Zionist (typically).

      You see the cult within a cult?

      • Flower

        “Those, who by their very nature do the things of the law, are a law unto themselves.”

        Kudos on your grasp of solitude.

  • xyzc

    Religion is the first to take care of that. It likes ’em young

  • The desire to be loved and to belong is inherent.
    We need to work with those natural desires to become people of integrity , rather than people who merely take it easy.
    Jesus was brilliant in noticing that conformity was a natural phenomenon.
    He used that desire to encourage us to conform to His likeness – brilliant.
    Don Levit

    • dimitri

      Great armchair philosophizing. Who was Jesus and when and where did he hold forth about conformity being a natural phenomenon? I would think it rather an unnatural phenomenon created by the likes of us for the express purpose of controlling each other lest some free thinker gets out of line.

      • xyzc

        Well said, mate

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