Social Nonconformity: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 What Is Social Nonconformity?
  • 1:09 Pressures & Norms
  • 2:46 Mental Illness
  • 4:04 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Social nonconformity refers to behaviors or thinking that don't comply with society's norms and expectations. In this lesson, learn more about social nonconformity from several examples.

What Is Social Nonconformity?

Imagine that you are walking along the sidewalk of a busy road with a group of friends. It's a hot, humid, and sunny day. Everyone is wearing shorts and loose clothing to battle the heat. You look to your left and see a man in a long fur coat and a tall pair of winter boots. You watch as the rest of the people on the sidewalk also stop to stare at him.

The reactions of the people on the sidewalk to seeing this man vary. Some of them point and laugh while others stare with their mouths open. Some of the people even move and go to the opposite side of the street in order to avoid being close to the man. The man continues to walk down the street unfazed by their reactions. The man's decision to wear winter attire on a hot summer day is an example of social nonconformity.

So, what do we mean by social nonconformity? The first portion of the term is social, which refers to something that is related to society. Conformity is defined as altering our behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes in order to match those of the people around us. It follows that social nonconformity is the refusal to comply with society's standard for normal attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs.

Pressures and Norms

Much of the way in which we behave is determined by social norms. For example, we don't talk on our cell phones in movie theaters because our society tells us that it is rude and disruptive. We call our parents 'Mom' and 'Dad' because the rules of society dictate that children call their parents by these titles instead of by their first names. We wait in line in order to check out at the grocery store because our society tells us this is a proper and fair way to pay for groceries.

Everywhere we go, we are receiving pressures from society to act and behave a certain way. For example, we're surrounded by pictures of women and men in magazines who are thin and attractive telling us that we need to strive to be smaller or more muscular. We are also rewarded when we follow society's norms and rules. When we wear certain clothes, we get positive attention from other people. When we complete all of our homework and school assignments, we get good grades. When we lose weight, we get compliments from our friends and strangers.

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