Conformity Bias

The conformity bias is the tendency people have to behave like those around them rather than using their own personal judgment.

People seem to be more comfortable mimicking others, even regarding ethical matters.

For example, studies show that people are more likely to act in a prosocial manner, such as contributing to charity or conserving water, if they see or hear that others are doing it too. Knowing that those around us are making an ethical choice indicates it’s the social norm, and makes it easier for us to follow suit.

Unfortunately, the flip side is also true. As psychologist Dan Ariely notes, “Cheating is contagious. When we see others succeed by cheating, it makes us more likely to cheat as well.”

Indeed, the conformity bias can cause people to simply follow the herd rather than use their own independent ethical judgment.