The Science Behind Fitting In

Deciding to join Greek life on campus was a conscious decision I made myself, in an effort to make Penn State’s massive campus a little smaller. Little did I know the last two weeks would be more stressful than I could ever imagine. I spent almost every second of my free time worrying about being accepted into a sorority that I belonged in. Throughout the process, many girls cried, agonizing over sororities that dropped them, but why? We all ended up where we belonged in the end. Do not get me wrong, I enjoyed it very much, and was very happy with the end result as I am now a part of a sorority that I love, but the entire time I was thinking why do we feel the need to fit in?¬†Everyone obviously wants to make friends, and feel accepted by their peers. Some even go to extreme lengths to do so. Although these people, who seek acceptance, may believe they are their own person, it has been researched that often times individuals conform to the beliefs of those by whom they wish to be accepted by. Conformity is basically our natural instinct to relate to others by adopting their interest, opinions, and behaviors. This need to fit in was extremely prevalent among my high school peers, as I’m sure it is among almost all teenagers. Psychologist have been exploring this phenomenon for years. More recently, Lisa Knoll with her colleagues at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience conducted a conformity experiment. They basically were researching to see the extent to which teenagers are influenced by their peers, and adults. Volunteers were selected with ages ranging from eight years old to those in their fifties. All were asked to rate seemingly risky situations, and then they were revealed the ratings of the other volunteers. After they were shown the other ratings, it was noted that teenagers adjusted their initial ratings to be in accordance to their other teenage peers, but not the adults. The younger participants were more influenced by the adults. This experiment shows that teenagers do tend to comply with their peers. As the experiment somewhat mimicked the extent of the influence peer pressure has on teens, serving as a reminder the importance of staying true to yourself.¬†



4 thoughts on “The Science Behind Fitting In

  1. Madison Danielle Starr

    Congratulations on getting into a sorority! I’ve heard the horror stories of rushing, and fully believe that it is not an easy task by any means. I can also see that with greek life, there is a lot of conformity. While I fully believe that their are many of those in greek life who are very nice and individualistic, people who are in fraternities or sororities seem to all act and look very similar. The guys tend to act like knuckle head jocks, and the girls look like variations of Barbie. I’ve even seen the changes to obtain the type of behaviors or aesthetic expected of those in greek life happen to my friends. Granted, I’m not innocent to the affects of conformity. I find myself dressing and acting like the people I hang out with. Conformity is a very powerful though. I remember learning about a study called the Asch Experiment. It was where people had to look at lines, compare them, and see which one of the choices matched up with the line they were shown. They would put a person in a group of people which (unknowingly to the one person) would purposely choose the wrong answer. After a while, many of those who weren’t in on the experiment just went with whatever the group was choosing. It’s scary to think that something like that could happen in more making more important choices. Here’s more on the experiment if you want to give it a read: .

  2. Marissa Dorros

    I just rushed as well, so I completely get why you were wondering why people feel such a strong need to be accepted. From the opposite end of the spectrum, this article explains the psychology behind why humans judge others. People are constantly forming judgements, and especially in our society, appearance plays a large role, so it makes sense that the teens in the study that you mentioned in your blog were worried about what others thought of their ratings.

  3. Allison Maria Magee

    As someone who rushed as well, I agree that it was a very stressful process. It is sad to see people change who they are so that they can be a part of “sorority A” due to the idea that “sorority A” is the “coolest” sorority to be in. I find this study very intriguing and am not surprised by the results. Teenagers have a tough time being themselves and realizing the path they are supposed to go on. It is silly for people to conform to what society says is cool instead of following their own heart and instincts. I enjoy and appreciate your connection of sorority rushing to this study.

  4. Anna Josephine Wisniewski

    First of all, I totally get the whole sorority thing. I just rushed and WOAH it was stressful and crazy like you said. I feel like that theme of conformity you talked about is so apparent during the process, that everyone forgets to be themselves and go where they belong, not where other people think it is ‘cool’ to belong. Anyways I could write a book about recruitment but I’ll save us both some time. That study is very interesting in how the teens altered what they put based on others. That study is hard to base off of, because it was volunteer based and not randomized, but I do agree with the results of the experiment.

Leave a Reply