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Conforming behavior and personality variables.

Norms are more likely to be established when they facilitate group survival and task accomplishment. Moreover, insofar as the perceptual, emotional, and cognitive dispositions responsible for adherence to norms are innate, compliance with social norms must be beneficial to human adaptation. Norms can be beneficial because they (a) keep the group intact and protect the group by punishing behaviors that threaten the group; (b) provide regularity and predictability to the behaviors expected of group members, thereby helping group members predict and anticipate the actions of peers; (c) help the group avoid embarrassing interpersonal problems and ensure that no group member’s self-image is damaged; and (d) express the central values of the group and clarify what is distinctive about its identity.Some norms are actively transmitted (e.g., explicit statements and rituals), whereas others are passively transmitted (e.g., nonverbal behaviors and imitation). Norms, if they are written down, become formal rules of proper conduct, but in most instances, norms are adopted implicitly as people align their behavior until consensus in action emerges. Muzafer Sherif’s classic analysis of this process suggests that this gradual alignment of action reflects the development of frames of reference for behaviors. Upon forming a group, individuals rapidly structure their experiences until they conform to a general standard. Individuals may not actively try to conform to the judgments of others, but instead they use the group consensus to revise their opinions and beliefs.