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

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3 comments so far

  1. Noelynn on

    Sometimes it takes real courage to be the real you.
    So to disguise the real you, one would pretend or behave otherwise just to displace the true color of oneself. Unless and until you run out of excuses maybe then you come out of that pretend shell.

    So how you feel and how you act may have correlation. It may take a psychologist to further explain on the correlation. But from experience, the feeling (emotion) has some impact on the action. And perhaps a psychologist can be able to figure this out. Additionally, I want to think that only you or someone very close to you can be able to sense and understand this correlation of behavior.

    So this is an interesting article as it points out the reality.

  2. keikok on

    People do change their behaviour deepening on where they are or who they are with.

    When I was in Japan, I always went to Starbacks to have some coffee or cakes and read the books or wrote my daily sitting next to the window or had a chat with my friends.
    I went there not only because I liked the coffee but also because it was cool thing to do. Many magazines write the topic about “Cafe” these days.
    “Go to cafe and have a relaxing time” “Make your own time useful” etc..
    So, if I had a time, I just entered into cafe and paid $5 for coffee.
    But when Im out side of Japan, like here in Perth, I rarely go to cafe. I have had only 2 cups of coffee in 6 months since I came here.
    It is because none of my friends go to cafe so often and I found out it is not cool for me any more.

    Hahaha, it is interesting topic. Well done!

  3. axl1228 on

    Very interesting topic! As an foreigner studying in Australia, I’m strongly related by this topic as Keiko. I haven’t seen a Starbucks here. I need to absorb the new culture in order to make myself comfortable in the new environment, new city, new community. Meanwhile, I’m always extremely excited when finding a group of my own culture, like some Chinese friends, a Chinese-food restaurant, etc. I feel a sense of belonging was satisfied.
    And of course, I need to behave differently in different communities, to make myself one of them.
    Often, we want to be special, be distinctive from others, be the REAL ourselves, however, it’s impossible to do it out of groups. Birds of a feather flock together.


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