Article Summary: Conformity to Peer Pressure in Preschool Children
Throughout the years, scientists have been puzzled by the tendency of human beings to conform even when they are faced with wrong information. This conformity has been maintained through ages. People living in the same environment and with similar genetic composition often show differences in their traditions. Even as they interact with other people, these differences are maintained through time, primarily due to strong conformity to a group. This conformity begins from early childhood with children trusting adults they see as conformers. Children conform to adults ideas mostly due to fear of punishment. Peer pressure has also been exhibited by preschool children changing their behaviors to adapt to that of their peers (Haun & Tomasello). The current study aims at studying strong conformity among peer groups in children.
The first experiment included 96 participants, all four years of age and mixed genders. The children were grouped in fours, with one of them being the minority in and the other three forming a unanimous majority. The exercise involved showing pictures of three animals of different sizes; large, middle or small. On the opposite page, one of the animals was on their own. The children were required to identify which of the animals had moved to the other page, be it, mommy, daddy or baby. For the majority, the animals were arranged in order while for the minority the order was changed at some intervals (Haun & Tomasello). In the first instance, the children responded by pointing while in the second they would identify the correct animals aloud. The target child was found to answer last. The minority child gave the right answer when tested individually.
In the speak-no conflict condition, the minority child performed better than when they spoke out loud. They also responded slower in the speak-conflict than the speak-no conflict conditions. Only five of the 22 minority children reported realizing that their book was different while the rest of them conformed to the majority. Girls were found to conform more than boys. The minority children performed poorly when they had to give a different answer in front of a unanimous majority. They were also slower to respond, showing a reaction to peer pressure. Thy adapted their response to fit in with the majority. This reaction is quite similar to that of adults who conform based on behavioral optimization and social approval. The motivation for the children’s conformity is unclear.
The second experiment sought to differentiate the two types of conformities, informational and social. Seventy-two four-year-old children were selected to participate. The procedure was the same as in the first experiment. The results showed that the children responded differently to conflict depending on whether the response was public or private. Minority children responded better when giving private answers (Haun & Tomasello). The results were the same as in Experiment 1 where children excelled individually but conformed when they gave a public response. The main difference is that the differences seen in experiment 1 in the conformity of boys and girls were not seen in the second experiment. There are different motivations for conforming depending on the age of the child.
The results of both experiments show that preschoolers have a high level of conformity just like adults. This level of conformity varies based on the privacy of responses. The behavior of preschool children in both experiments shows that children are subject to the influence of adults due to fear of punishment and respect. They also conform to their peers due to social pressures. Form the study; it can be said that the tendency to conform that is common to human diversity begins at a very young age.
Haun, Daniel BM, and Michael Tomasello. “Conformity to peer pressure in preschool children.” Child development 82.6 (2011): 1759-1767.