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Should I conform? Should I rebel? This has and always will be, a constant battle struggled individually, or as a society. A certain amount of conformity needs to exist in life in order to avoid disorder. This is the reason we have laws. Take those laws, rules, control, or even expectations, to an extreme, and some form of rebellion is probable. Struggle with these opposites, and you have a catalyst for war, or perhaps, being fired from a job.
The partisanship of today’s politics may be shocking, but it also reveals something significant about human behavior: the power of social influence. Personal beliefs can be strengthened when people surround themselves with those who share their views and distance themselves from the demonized other side.
But the drive to conform isn’t all we feel. We also try to be different from others, forging our identities through similarity and distinction. In reality, each of us embodies aspects of the conformist and rebel archetypes. These exist as opposing ends of a spectrum and we likely fall somewhere in between.
Recognizing the far-reaching power of social influence—and its limitations—can not only make us more self-aware, but can also help us build a better society. Continue reading