Is Social Conformity Influenced By Our Genetics?

Social conformity is essential to human society and can have good and bad consequences. How likely you are to conform may be tied to your genes. Learn more.

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Are you more likely to make decisions based on those around you even when you know it’s wrong? Scientists call this social conformity and have found genetic ties to this behavior. In fact, the likelihood of conformity in major life decisions may be impacted widely by your genetic profile. 

Social conformity is essential to human societies and can be beneficial for individuals. This type of group pressure can positively impact lives by providing a solid basis for learning by imitating and helping create a sense of social cohesion and stability. 

Conversely, conformity can have negative consequences. Some of the most monumental impacts can include suppressing independence and originality, mass hysteria, violence, dictatorship, and sometimes, following the crowd regardless of truth, fairness, or justice.

Let’s dive into understanding social conformity in more detail, including its definition and how genetics can play a role in your risk of conforming. 

What is Social Conformity?

In the simplest terms, social conformity is a change in thought or behavior by an individual to fit in with a group based on social pressure or influence. 

For most, this change in stance and behavior directly results from real or imagined pressure by an outside source such as a family member, friend, or even celebrity. 

The pressure can be described in two ways:

  1. Real– the physical presence of others who speak about or act in a way to influence your opinion, beliefs, and actions.
  2. Imagined– the pressure of social norms and expectations based on popular thoughts, beliefs, and majority stances.

Types of Conformity

There are four major types of conformity.

  1. Compliance– This type of conformity occurs when an individual willingly agrees to change in hopes of receiving a favorable outcome from a specific group or another person. The goal of compliance conformity is to gain specific approval from one or more people based on the fear of rejection. Compliance is considered a temporary change in behavior as it stops when there is no direct pressure from a group to behave a certain way. 
  1. Identification– This occurs when a person is influenced by outside beliefs to maintain a relationship with another person or group. In identification, private conformity does not need to be met. 
    It is also important to note that social role expectations are a part of identification conformity meaning that individuals can conform during certain situations, such as in the workplace, but go back to their regular thoughts and beliefs outside of that experience. 
  1. Internalization– Considered the deepest level of conformity, this type involves public and private conformity. It occurs when a person accepts influence as a new normal and permanently maintains it as their new set of thoughts and beliefs.
  1. Ingratiational– Similar to compliance, this type of conformity is based on the goal of impressing others or gaining acceptance. However, it is not motivated by the threat of rejection. 

Although social conformity is widely followed worldwide, not everyone conforms to social pressures. Those who consider themselves non-conforming choose to remain individual and unique from others based on ideals like self-love, confidence in their beliefs, and self-sufficiency. 

Social Conformity and Genetics: An In-Depth Analysis

Individual differences have been identified in conformity. 

Its prevalence suggests the possibility that conformity is influenced by genetics and environmental factors, similar to other social behaviors such as helping or aggression. 

Despite this theory, only one published paper has evaluated genetic associations with conformity traits, and it concluded that there was no genetic influence. 

However, given the nature of this study and how it was set up, it lacked the usual necessary conditions for conformity. The authors only relied on self-reporting to validate whether someone was conforming or non-conforming. 

To understand to what extent conformity is genetically influenced, researchers adopted two behavioral assessments to measure conformity. 

They performed a meta-analysis of three genome-wide association studies (GWASs) to investigate the genetic contribution to social conformity. The three GWAS consisted of three different locations of participants in China. 1

Two different tests for social conformity were employed to minimize errors: 

  1. Price Estimation Conformity Test (CONFP)
  2. Memory Conformity Test (CONFM)

Each test consisted of judging and conformity testing stages. 

A “monetary incentive” condition was adopted in the tests to motivate participants to try their best. Participants were told that the more accurate they were at the second stage, the higher reward they would receive. 

In total, 111 single nucleotide polymorphisms (* also known as an SNP you can think of this like a street address for genes) from up to 2,600 participants were analyzed in the meta-analysis, and 10 SNPs showed a significant association with social conformity. 2

Social conformity often varies among cultures. 

Whether the uncovered genes in this paper would be the same among other cultures is unknown. 

Furthermore, because the majority of samples are Han Chinese, there is a possible slight population bias, and the generalizability of this research remains to be studied. 

How Do I Know If My Genes Play a Role in Social Conformity?

DNA analysis might be the best way to determine your genetic tendency for how you react and make decisions in social situations. 

A DNA testing kit is simple to use. Your genetic DNA testing results can reveal many answers to your questions about your navigation of society, including your likelihood to choose social conformity in some or most of life’s situations. 

After taking an at-home DNA test, you can use your raw DNA file to analyze your genetic profile more closely.

Simply sign in to the Genomelink dashboard to upload your DNA file, and our experts will do the rest. Don’t wait another day; Unlock your full genetic potential today!

1The three GWAS included were GZ_GWAS with participants recruited from the Guangzhou Twin Registry, and CQ-GWAS and CQ-REP with students at Chongqing Medical University enrolled as participants.

2Of these, rs7709420 near the CAMK4 gene and rs16999500 near the LINC01207 gene region were associated with CONFP results, while rs11895478 near the KCNJ3 region was associated with CONFM results. 

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