I want to be like You
I recently read an article, “Social Norms and Identity Relevance: A Motivational Approach to Normative Behaviour”. Having never formally studied psychology, yet having my own theories about the world around me – why people are the way they are perhaps as a consequence of their genetics and upbringing, I must admit, it was a challenging, yet immensely interesting read. Also being from a science background I want things to have a final answer or outcome. I have now learnt that is not the case when studying peoples’ behaviours, since an experiment carried out testing such things at the end of the day, is not a real life situation.
I learnt new terms! The phrase, “injunctive norms” are those core values or norms you feel are morally right, and the phrase, “descriptive norms” are those norms you actually carry out. So, how you feel versus how you act. The three main findings I took away from this study regarding what makes us follow a certain group, were the extent to which conforming to a group motivates you to endure and continue with it as long as it evokes a positive emotional response. The second concept is the relationship between group identity and context. The third outlines the relevance of the norm in relation to the group identity. The latter conveyed to me that people will conform to universal injunctive norms as these represent your moral values, but they will have their own descriptive norms which are distinctly representative of a particular group. I was reminded that people love to belong, so if there was a certain phase or group, and an individual really related to that groups’ behaviour, that person would tend to follow. That then led me to my high school days in Scotland, where there was a “Mosher” phase, or at least that’s what I told myself I was. Kids would wear colourful striped socks, black jewellery, listen to an array of music between punk and rock, and wear black eye liner. I signified it “Baby Goth”. And for a while, I was one of them, long black jacket with striped socks and all – it felt cool to be different. However, when I decided I didn’t enjoy wearing that jacket as well as discovering that I actually didn’t enjoy listening to heavy, sad music and jumping around when bands were playing, I realised other friends of mine felt the same way, and we formed a separate group. I still talked to the “Moshers”, but didn’t associate myself as being one. There have been many situations where I have analysed myself because the people around me behaved differently. I thought that surely other people would have been in this sort of situation or another where say, everyone was drinking coffee, but an individual was drinking a glass of water. Would that person let their inner feelings of not wanting caffeine, be taken over because everyone else is drinking coffee?
Research paper: Christensen, P. N., Rothgerber H., Wood. W, and Matz, D.C (2004) “Social Norms and Identity Relevance”: A Motivational Approach and Normative Behaviour, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 3 (10). 1295 -1309