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Popular Delusions: How Social Conformity Molds Society and Politics By Stephen Colem ...

Chapter 1:  Social Conformity: The Collective Dimension
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Popular Delusions:

Chapter 1

Social Conformity—The Collective Dimension

Men, it has been well said, think in herds; it will be seen that they go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.

—Charles Mackay1

How often has social conformity affected your life today? How did you decide what to wear? Did you get to work on time, drive there in an SUV, tell your children how they should behave, or recycle any newspapers? Conformity, the voluntary aligning of one’s behavior with a widely held social norm or the behavior of others, is pervasive and deeply ingrained in us. It affects our public actions and private thoughts. It makes daily life predictable and holds society together,2 shaping habits, customs, opinions, fads, and fashions.

Social conformity begins with the most ordinary and natural tendency of people to be influenced by one another. Conformity is more than mimicry, however, as it can involve important social learning; it is how people discern the rules of society.