Compliance and the Educational Environment

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Principles of social psychology indicate that in order for a society to function properly, there must be established norms of behavior to guide social behavior and regulate it effectively (Morris amp. Maisto, 2005). Social norms are learned, socially based rules that prescribe what people should or should not do (, 2007, p.1). Students, especially those in high school, often turn to their peers as a form of reference group which serves as a model for their behaviors and personality development. It is usually the majority membership that determines what are appropriate social systems and guidelines. Students seeking to become part of the in-group generally look toward the norms driven by the majority and then seek to conform to these norms in order to gain a sense of inter-peer belonging.
Abraham Maslow developed what is referred to as the Hierarchy of Needs that indicates it is psychologically necessary to be provided a sense of social belonging in order to develop important concepts of self-esteem and reach their highest emotional potential. This is why adolescents who are seeking to build their own self-concept and self-identity turn toward reference groups to understand what types of attitudes and behaviors are acceptable as it fulfills emotional needs. Maslow’s model of needs clearly indicates that self-esteem development is impossible without approval from the individual’s social group. Adolescence is usually a period of self-exploration where peer attitude and opinion are considered to be highly important.In the 1950s, psychologist Solomon Asch conducted a conformity experiment using participants that included confederates of the researcher (those who were trained on how to respond) and a lone participant unaware of the nature of the study.