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Peer pressure is a term describing the pressure exerted by a peer group in encouraging a person to change their attitude, behavior and/or morals, to conform to, for example, the group's actions, fashion sense, taste in music and television, or outlook on life. Social groups affected include membership groups, when the individual is "formally" a member (for example, a political party or trade union), and social cliques. A person affected by peer pressure may, or may not want to, belong to these groups. They may also recognize dissociative groups with which they would not wish to associate, and thus they behave adversely concerning that group's behaviors. Most people who smoke say that they started or continued because of peer pressure.

There are two types of peer pressure: positive and negative. Positive peer pressure is when someone tries to help you change something about yourself for the better, and negative peer pressure is the opposite.[How to reference and link to summary or text] It can also be used to pressure someone into having sex without a condom. For popularity, drugs, money, etc.

Peer pressure is most commonly associated with youth, in part because most youth spend large amounts of time in schools and other fixed groups that they do not choose and are seen as lacking the maturity to handle pressure from friends. Also, young people are more willing to behave negatively towards those who are not members of their own peer groups. [citation needed]

Peer pressure can also have positive effects when people are pressured toward positive behavior, such as volunteering for charity or excelling in academics or athletics, by their peers. This is most commonly seen in youths who are active in sports or other extracurricular activities where conformity with one's peer group is strongest. [citation needed]

Risk behavior

While socially accepted kids are the best in high school because of having the most class resources, the most opportunities and the most positive experiences, research shows that being in the popular crowd may also be a risk factor for mild to moderate deviant behavior.[citation needed] Popular adolescents are the most socialized into their peer groups and thus are vulnerable to peer pressures, such as behaviors usually reserved for those of a greater maturity and understandingcial. Socially accepted kids are often accepted for the sheer fact that they conform well to the norms of teen culture, good and bad aspects included. Popular adolescents are more strongly associated with their peer groupsike alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. Although there are a few risk factors correlated with popularity, deviant behavior is often only mild to moderate. Regardless, social acceptance provides more overall protective factors than risk factors.[1]

Asch conformity

The Asch conformity experiments were a series of laboratory studies published in the 1950s that demonstrated a surprising degree of conformity to a majority opinion. These are also known as the Asch Paradigm. Experiments led by Solomon Asch of Swarthmore College asked groups of students to participate in a "vision test." In reality, all but one of the participants were confederates of the experimenter, and the study was really about how the remaining student would react to the confederates' behavior.

The Third Wave

The Third Wave was an experiment to demonstrate the appeal of fascism undertaken by history teacher Ron Jones with sophomore high school students attending his Contemporary History as part of a study of Nazi Germany. The experiment took place at Cubberley High School in Palo Alto, California, during the first week of April 1967. Jones, unable to explain to his students how the German populace could claim ignorance of the extermination of the Jewish people, decided to show them instead. Jones started a movement called "The Third Wave" and convinced his students that the movement is to eliminate democracy. The fact that democracy emphasizes individuality was considered as a drawback of democracy, and Jones emphasized this main point of the movement in its motto: "Strength through discipline, strength through community, strength through action, strength through pride". The Third Wave experiment is an example of risk behavior in authoritarian and peer pressure situations.[2][3]

It is one useful tool in leadership. Instead of direct delegation of tasks and results demanding, employees are in this case, induced into a behaviour of self propelled performance and innovation, by comparison feelings towards their peers. There are several ways peer pressure can be induced in a working environment. Examples are: training, team meetings. Training since the team member is in contact with people with comparable roles in other organizations. Team meetings since there will be an implicit comparison between every team member especially if the meeting agenda is the presentation of results and goal status.[4]

Neural mechanisms

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Neuroimaging identifies the anterior insula and anterior cingulate as key areas in the brain determining whether people conform in their preferences in regard to its being popular with their peer group.[5]


An explanation of how the peer pressure process works, called "the identity shift effect", is introduced by social psychologist, Wendy Treynor, who weaves together Festinger's two seminal social-psychological theories (on dissonance, which addresses internal conflict, and social comparison, which addresses external conflict) into a unified whole. According to Treynor’s original "identity shift effect" hypothesis, the peer pressure process works in the following way: One's state of harmony is disrupted when faced with the threat of external conflict (social rejection) for failing to conform to a group standard. Thus, one conforms to the group standard, but as soon as one does, eliminating this external conflict, internal conflict is introduced (because one has violated one's own standards). To rid oneself of this internal conflict (self-rejection), an "identity shift" is undertaken, where one adopts the group's standards as one's own, thereby eliminating internal conflict (in addition to the formerly eliminated external conflict), returning one to a state of harmony. Even though the peer pressure process begins and ends with one in a (conflict-less) state of harmony, as a result of conflict and the conflict resolution process, one leaves with a new identity—a new set of internalized standards.[6]

See also


  1. Allen, Porter, McFarland, Marsh, & McElhaney (2005). The two faces of adolescents' success with pears
    Adolescent popularity, social adaptation, and deviant behavior. Child Development .. megha and diksha, 76, 757-760.
  2. Weinfield, L (1991). Remembering the 3rd Wave. Retrieved March 6, 2010.
  3. Jones, Ron (1972). THE THIRD WAVE. Retrieved March 6, 2010.
  4. Salvador, José (2009). MBA CookBook.
  5. Berns GS, Capra CM, Moore S, Noussair C. (2010). Neural mechanisms of the influence of popularity on adolescent ratings of music. Neuroimage. 49:2687–2696. DOI:10.1016/j.neuroimage.2009.10.070 PMID 19879365
  6. Treynor (2009). Towards a General Theory of Social Psychology: Understanding Human Cruelty, Human Misery, and, Perhaps, a Remedy (A Theory of the Socialization Process). Redondo Beach: Euphoria Press.

Further reading

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