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Helton, Brandon
Jennifer Rodrick
English 115
17, October 2016
Conformity and Peer Pressure
Kids in high school tend to be the easiest to influence, and who else to influence them
than their peers? With the rise in popular culture among teenagers, the aspects of it become the
“norm” among students. If someone doesn’t like a certain clothing line or type of music, they
may be seen as “weird” among their classmates. Because of the sensitive time in their lives,
people in high school naturally want to “fit in” with everyone else and to follow what the “cool
kids” are doing. Nobody wants to be left out or even rejected because they may not agree with
something, so the logical course of action to these kids becomes putting up a front and following
the standards of what to like, how to dress, and how to act. This leads to people making decisions
that normally wouldn’t be made on their own, creating risky or uncomfortable situations. Putting
these all together in the high school environment along with the age of students creates a
community that strongly influences people to follow the herd and do what everyone else is doing
instead of being unique, which creates a society today that isn’t diverse at all.
In high school, fitting in is something valued greatly, which means that people may shift
their interests to satisfy the preferences of others, causing an insincere group relationship. For
example, one case I witnessed myself was that someone I knew decided to smoke marijuana with
his friends, I will call him “Leo” for ease of reference. While I don’t see it as very negative
myself and am not a user, he viewed it as something to stay away from, and understood that his
friends wanted to use it and would not judge his friends for it. One day he went ahead and asked

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if he could join in, feeling like his friends would relate to him better if he were to do it and enjoy
it, but he described the feeling as unnatural and weird, feeling as though he had no control over
his body, as if he was just observing his body move from somewhere else. He pretended to enjoy
it to not disappoint his friends when he finally did this for once. Leo’s friends were ecstatic that
he finally came out and smoked with them, as they always told him that they wanted to “smoke
him out” one time, but he would always kindly refuse the offer. Leo was lying to himself and his
friends, creating a relation to each other that didn’t exist, he would have to remember about his
lie every time they interacted, claiming he shared the same views now that he has smoked
marijuana. This is described as a “normative influence” in the article “Peer Pressure” from their
viewpoints collection. One example given for this is “people who enjoy eating junk food may
restrain themselves at home, but give in when they see their friends indulging” (Opposing
Viewpoints Online Collection 3). This fits the case given with the difference that he didn’t enjoy
the activity, but saw everyone else enjoying it and wanted to follow suit. While he was happy to
fit in more with his friends, he didn’t feel welcome after that, since all they would want to do is
just smoke and chill out. In his case, while he was still good friends with his group before that,
the core of the group changed after that, not accommodating him for his resistance to smoke, but
to push it even harder now that he said he likes it, which is not true. Not wanting to disappoint
them, the lie went on for a long time. In his case, this one lie that he used to better relate to his
friends is what created a rift between them, not sharing his real interests or voicing his
disapproval. He became easily influenced by them due to being the outcast of the group who was
the only one that didn’t like to smoke, and once he said he did, it became centered on it. He
threw away his individuality for the sake of the group, and only for them to like him more,
causing Leo to dislike himself more. When lying to fit in with a group, people will not see the

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consequences of satisfying the needs of someone else at the cost of your own voice in a
community. While his friends were not forcing it on him, he was pressured simply by seeing
himself as an outcast at school even though he had these friends around him. The shifted interest
created a persona within the group, creating an unnatural friendship between them all.
There is also the effect of risk taking being more common when influenced by others, and
that it is even more common among young people of high school age. When people at a young
age are already so easily influenced, the setting of high school and wanting to fit in makes people
do things they wouldn’t do by themselves. In a study by Margo Gardner and Laurence Steinberg
of the Psychology department in Temple University, results showed that people in the presence
of their peers “gave greater weight to the benefits rather than the costs of risky activities, and
were more likely to select risky courses of action in the risky decision-making
situations”(Gardner 14). The process of finding this was people of the same age group were to
simulate certain decisions by themselves and others with their peers, and less risks were taken
individually than with the presence of peers. This shows that even the presence of peers can
make one second guess their own decisions, and will become more likely to take an unnecessary
risk or to take the risk for the sake of doing it. A person taking risks that they’re not comfortable
with can lead to hesitation, and can create a dangerous situation in some cases. If someone were
to make a risky turn in their car in order to get somewhere faster, if they were to hesitate in the
action, it could lead to an accident, which could seriously injure or even kill someone. Among
the age groups, adolescents (14-16) were the most susceptible to more risky decisions in the
presence of peers compared to that of youths (19-20) and adults (24+). This means that decisions
are being made based on whether someone else is watching or not, and are not behaving in a way
they would like to. Things that come to mind is that “If I can take this risk and be successful, will

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other people see me as cool?” This kind of mindset is something I would think of sometimes in
the past. It leads to a life that is based on finding the approval of everyone except oneself, and
when it becomes a common occurrence, nobody will be sincere. Friendships are created based on
those approvals, which were fabricated by the popular culture that easily influences young
people. While there is visibly a community, it becomes a group of people who all act the same
and like the same things, which lacks individuality within people and becomes too uniform.
There is also the influence of social status within schools, a sort of hierarchy, that
determines what people should do and what to like, and when this occurs, a herd mentality is
created among the people. It starts with certain people being defined as “cool kids” who seem to
set the standard for being normal, then people will start to follow by example based on what they
like. In an article by Eric Reed of the University of Massachusetts, he reflects on his own
experiences in high school of social status, herd mentality, and being self-aware. In defining
those types of people who set the standard, he explains that “some individuals just seemed to be
superior to others” and that those people could “then dictate their norms to everyone” (Reed
180). This is what loosely creates a popular culture within a school setting, having many people
wear the same clothes, listen to the same music, and behave the same way. It takes away from
the sense of self because people are focused on being accepted into a certain social status,
especially by these apparently “superior” people who set the standard. The trend starts and more
people become exposed to it, then when they hear that “superior person” likes a certain type of
clothing and that someone else is doing it too, it spreads like wildfire to everyone else. One
example I can think of is a certain type of shoe in my high school that once people started to
wear it, everyone else wanted a pair too, and I was also one of those people who followed
through and got a pair. It became common place for many people to be wearing that exact same

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pair of shoes, some only having the difference of color if there was a difference. Once a standard
of supposed normality has been set, people will not hesitate to follow up on it and it starts a large
community of people liking the same things, or doing something only because a certain person of
higher social status likes it, which means it is just herd mentality taking over people.
When young people are exposed to all these types of influences, good or bad, it is to be
expected that they will affect the way they live their daily lives. Whether it be what type of music
they listen to, what interests their group of friends has, clothing worn, and much more, there
becomes a “norm” in a sense that many people will follow. Some of these norms may be based
on popular culture, or on the influences of “popular kids” at school, both end up having the same
affect either way. It creates a herd mentality, and then when people at the front of the herd make
a certain decision, others will follow it up even if it is risky or uncomfortable, because they don’t
want to be an outcast of the group. The school setting then becomes a place of learning who
these herd leaders are, what their standard of normal is, then following it so they won’t be left
out. When all of these connect, a school becomes a community of people who all do the same
thing, installing a herd mentality into their heads, then transitioning that into their adult lives,
creating a society that isn’t very unique or diverse at all.

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Works Cited
EzeeAnimations. “Good Kid Mad Peer Pressure.” Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube,
30 September 2013. Web. 20 October 2016.
Gardner, Margo and Laurence Steinberg. “Peer Pressure Is a Risk for Adolescents.” America’s
Youth. Ed. Jamuna Carroll. Detroit: Greenhaven, 2008. Opposing Viewpoints
Rpt. Of “Peer Influence on Risk Taking, Risk Preference, and Risky Decision Making in
Adolescence and Adulthood: An Experimental Study.” Developmental Psychology July
2005: 626-32. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 20 Oct. 2016
“Peer Pressure.” Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection. Detroit: Gale, 2014. Opposing
Viewpoints in Context. Web. 20 Oct. 2016
Reed, Eric “A Futile Struggle? Power of Conformity in High School and the Society at Large,”
Human Architecture: Journal of the Sociology of Self-Knowledge: Vol. 6: Iss. 2, Article
17, 2008. Accessed 19 October 2016.
What Would You Do?. “Teens Peer Pressure Friend to Abuse Cough Syrup What Would You
Do? WWYD.” Online Video Clip. YouTube. YouTube, 29 March 2016. Web. 19 October
2016.