Those who seem to feel the most pressure to conform are newcomers to a group who are attempting to establish themselves as legitimate members. Those who fill group leadership roles also are more prone to conform as a way of reinforcing group standards. If a person has recently joined a professional club on campus and the members all play softball on Saturday mornings, he or she will typically go out and buy a team hat and show up at each game. Group leaders will also likely attend or participate every week—and wear a team hat. Group members who are in neither of these camps have fewer reasons to comply, and their behavior is more deviant. In general, the more important a group is in our lives, the greater our desire is to accept and conform to its norms.
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The influence of reference groups on marketplace decisions varies. Overall, groups tend to be more influential on product decisions than they are on either brand or outlet choices. The type of product also has a bearing on the extent to which consumers are subject to conformity pressure when purchasing it. Purchases of such items as cars, beer, and aftershave lotion are influenced by conformity pressure. In order to try to use this for social good, “entertainment education” has made its way into regular television programing, showing certain behaviors and product use. For example, in the television program “Dating Rules from My Future Self,” the Ford Nuance voice recognition system is often shown to viewers, as the program characters use the product.
Conforming behavior is expected to some degree in all social groups. But how do we discover what a group’s normative system is? How are we encouraged to conform to it? Many norms are both observed and adopted passively, with no conscious effort to either learn or teach them. Group interaction and discussion is the common active means through which norms are communicated. Interaction is also more influential in effecting attitude change than is passive learning. This is evident in the effectiveness of infomercials as a form of persuasive communication. These program-length television commercials usually combine dissemination of detailed product information with a sales pitch. Infomercials are designed to sell goods and services through product presentation, opinions offered by an expert, and, most important, interviews with a group of satisfied customers—a reference group—telling of their positive experiences with the product. If the potential customer sees himself or herself as a group fit, he or she is more likely to respond positively to the offer.
By contrasting these two groups in terms of values, beliefs, attitudes, self-image, and lifestyle, we gain a very clear picture of the way in which membership of reference groups serves as an expression of the self. Products and services are used by people in reference groups to express “who they are.” Marketers understand this and position products against these targets, showing use in typical reference group situations.
Reflexivity - Reflexivity is the process of 'stepping back' from a situation we are involved in, for a 'helicopter view' of ourselves. Here we examine ourselves to gauge our values, assumptions, behaviour and relationships, and thereby monitor our learning and develop our intra-personal and inter-personal skills (equating to self-management, and external relationships).
Roles are behavior patterns that people are expected to carry out based on the positions they hold within groups. Members of the group expect certain behaviors and feel the need to conform to them. A woman who carries out the role of president of a local charity may oversee the organization of various activities, participate as a speaker at fund-raising events, and interact with sponsors at dinner parties and on outings. At the same time, as a family member, she may perform the role of parent, nurturing, supporting, and disciplining her children. Within the family, she is also wife, sister, and daughter and plays those roles accordingly. In other areas of her life, she is an environmental activist and chairperson of her local college alumni association chapter. In each case, both she and other members of the groups in which she participates have expectations about what she should do. It is up to her to decide her level of conformity.
Sometimes roles conflict, with each reference group having a different set of behavior expectations. In these cases, the dominance of the reference group and the individual’s self-concept determine behavior. It is likely that Homan’s equation is at work. For example, the religious parents of a teenager may not like when the teenager swears in front of them, but in the teenager’s social group, swearing may be cool.
Saying thank you and teaching your child to say thank you is extremely important. You may have to remind your child to use these words almost all the time, but don’t give up. When gratitude is an attitude within your home it wont be long before he learns to use those words with meaning and purpose.
As we saw in , it is through the process of socialization that we learn the norms, appropriate behavior patterns, and values of a society or of a group within it. As part of a reference group, we may be socialized by observing “correct” group behavior and emulating it. Some groups formally teach new members about these things. As part of a reference group, we may be the ones to pass on appropriate role behavior and values. Often, the latter are reflected in purchase choices, and marketers attempt to position their products and services appropriately. Retailers, for example, may advertise the type of shoes most popular with college students to show freshmen the styles that will help them fit in on campus, thus accelerating socialization. It is among adolescents that reference groups exert the strongest socializing influence, affecting a number of choices of “visible” products such as snow skis and high-performance bicycles. This can also play a significant role in the development of dangerous or unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking or binge drinking.
We noted earlier that groups have normative systems. Members of the group are influenced by the system. Individuals act in ways that will meet the normative system expectations of the group. The reward for this conforming behavior is increased group acceptance. If norms are not accepted or acted on, rewards may be withheld or sanctions imposed.
As adults, we have come to understand the importance of values in our own personal lives. They give us direction in the course of behavior and enrich our daily interactions. But, what does this mean to a young child of 2 or 5? Are values important at that age? If so, how do we teach them these values?