It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.

Please white-list or disable in your ad-blocking tool.

Thank you.


Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.


The need to conform, as shown through a bus ethnography

page: 1

log in


posted on Jun, 22 2012 @ 01:04 PM
In my freshman year of college I wrote an ethnography about bus riders at the University of Kansas. They have a large bus system that runs through the city and through the campus. Its actually a very nice and easy way to get around. I thought with the recent bullying video that went I would post the paper, as an example for how spread conformity is, and how it works. All citations are from academic journals.

A Guide for Surviving the Bus
Busses are a common site on the University of Kansas’ campus; they are for some the sole transportation to and from destinations. For others they are a safety net after an intoxicating night. Regardless the reasons for riding the bus, people must take note of the strange behaviors exhibited on the bus. The bus is a socially awkward and silent experience, an experience that forces an individual to quickly conform to the environment that the bus exudes. When people conform to the nature of the bus they become silent and seclude themselves in their own little worlds. That is because an established behavior has been created on the bus, due to the behavior that has been established we all must then conform to the behavior that we all see now. Or face being singled out and feeling socially awkward. Simply put, the bus is socially awkward and we subconsciously conform to that reality.
Bus Observations
I observed the riders of the Bus route 42 blue, over the course of two days. The times observed varied from 1-5 P.M. So, immediately the time frame might have created an unfair observation, in the fact that there are fewer riders on the bus at those times. I however doubt that the time frame will create that big of discrepancy for the observations to be able to be claimed as credible evidence for a pattern. So even though the observation times aren’t at peak hours I still believe that the behaviors observed would be observed at any time on the bus.
The most common site on the bus was an individual sitting alone with something digital like a cellphone, or an Ipod, or something in print like a newspaper or a book. This behavior is in an indication that the riders like to effectively isolate themselves into their own worlds, possibly to avoid the feelings of social awkwardness or possibly to conform to the nature of the bus. Both are effectively plausible because they go hand in hand, the bus is awkward to avoid creating a scene, or breaking the normal nature, isolation actually conforms to the normal behavior on the bus.
So, essentially the normal behavior is created immediately when an individual walks onto the bus, much like many other of the observations. Once an individual walked onto the bus they immediately became quiet. Even people that were cheerfully talking at the bus stop would immediately stop once they stepped on the bus. They also would remain silent the entire duration of the bus ride, only speaking once to ask a question to each other that was answered promptly. Thus, the friends would be expanding upon the behavior on the bus that was already established by previous bus riders. They were subconsciously forced to conform to the normal behavior that the bus has. That is because people have an innate psychological need to conform to a societally accepted behavior.
Therefore, by conforming basically to the silence that the bus promotes those individuals avoided the backlash from the group that is the bus riders. Once a societal norm has been established it is difficult to change or effectively eliminate. Therefore when a person would a person would rebel against the norm they were noticed and from observations they were stared at or given strange looks. Individuals that would break the norm would vary from the very basic of talking out of turn, to the brazen complete rebellion of having a full conversation without regard of any individuals around them. A person talking on a cellphone was a very egregious example of a person breaking societal constructs of the bus. The individual talked on their phone for the duration of their ride loud enough that everyone on the bus could hear her talking. However the need to conform did not seem to affect this individual. That is due to the fact that on the bus no one would actually enforce the norm that exists on the bus, other than with nonverbal cues. A study from Australia concluded that childhood bullies would bully other students to make them conform to the societal norm. That is evidenced on the bus with the glances and glares that a person would get when they would talk on the bus.
People can and do break the norm on the bus but it was rare to see on the bus during observations. During one observation most of the bus riders were conversing with someone outside of their phones. It was a very interesting phenomenon to watch people were breaking what was an established behavior almost at will. I was even questioned while observing as to what I was doing. The rebels had no true differences between the non-talkers on the bus; the only difference was that the rebels had gained a newfound courage. That newfound courage gave them the ability to overcome the social anxiety promoting aura that bus exudes.
“Social anxiety refers to nervousness or discomfort in social situations, usually because of fear about doing something embarrassing or foolish, making a bad impression, or being judged critically by others.”
What those rebels did for that trip was create a new norm, even though it was difficult to break a long standing norm, a new norm had been established by the rebels. A new norm that wasn’t as negative as social anxiety or social awkwardness. A study from the Society for Personality and Societal Psychology , concluded that when a group conforms it creates individual emotions that can be associated with the group. Hence when the group conformed to the silence of the bus the emotions dealt around social anxiety and awkwardness. When the group rebelled against the norm in the one observation previously mentioned the group dynamic changed to become a friendlier environment.
The bus riders of the bus route 42 Blue through no fault of their own have created a norm that promotes behaviors of seclusion and social anxiety. With the norm being successfully created on the bus it makes it extremely difficult to change, except for the aforementioned case. That creates a problem one unsuccessful rebellions occur on the bus, the individuals are quickly reacted to with non-verbal communicative methods that are enough to stop an individual for the most part. These non-verbal methods include: glances, glares, pointing, and staring. They are adequate methods to stop an individual from breaking the norm on the bus. These non-verbal methods are in fact providing validation to the riders of the bus.
Validation can be claimed for an individual in a non-clinical setting if the behavioral changes are up to the socially acceptable levels; this is from a study from the journal “Behavior Modification.” This is important because it helps answer why many of the individuals would not rebel against the norm on the bus. They had in fact reached a point of validation and were effectively assimilated into the group, thus needing no need to rebel because they were accepted. Which helps explain why most people have a psychological need to conform to a group. There is a need for validation and acceptance; some people have an extreme need for this validation. Those that do have a psychological disorder called normotic illness which will keep a person from being at peace unless accepted into a group norm.
From this then a claim can be made that some individuals do not need this validation which would fit into the observations noted. Some people can exist without the need to conform into a group norm and can change a group behavior as hard as it would be to accomplish that. That was again an observed behavior on the bus.
Those that rebel against the social norm are called social deviants, or just simply those who do not conform. A study from the Nation Science Agency concluded that in criminals the recourse for breaking the norm had to be very severe to curtail the threat of a person breaking the norm. On the bus it seems that the social anxiety threat and the non-verbal methods are enough to curtail many would social deviants and is severe enough to stop a person while they are rebelling. However it is clear that the social anxiety and non-verbal methods are not a one size fits all solution, and thus it is why people can still work up the courage to break the norm on the bus.
Even though few will break the norm on the bus, the threat of being singled out and thus suffering social anxiety is enough to stem the thoughts of rebelling. People do not want to be singled out on the bus, they want to simply isolate themselves in their own worlds and keep to themselves for the duration of the ride. That fits the description of social anxiety, essentially a person fears embarrassing themselves in public. So that also shows people on the bus care what the others think about them, because the people that judge them will be the ones that attempt to correct the behavior. This is called peer pressure which is the outside pressure to conform to a group’s behavior.
Peer pressure is a common term and is a normal occurrence for every person every day, however on the bus peer pressure can be used again to force conformity and negate social deviance. In a study that dealt with 6th-12th graders it showed kids were more likely to follow the peer pressure to do positive behaviors, and less likely to follow the peer pressure for negative behaviors. On the bus a negative behavior would be to go against the norm, so if the behavior shown in teenagers is allowed to be stretched to fit the bus riders. Then a claim can be made that riders are less likely to become social deviants on the bus due to nature of peer pressure. So essentially some people not conform and become social deviants because it is statistically possible.
The busses at the University of Kansas are incredibly more complex psychologically then a person may think. They are complex system of conformity and social deviance, the silence is the established behavior for the bus. However, individuals can and will rebel against the norm, because some people do not react to positive peer pressure, or do not find the repercussions serious enough. It is a small amount of people but that small amount of people will always exist in a group. That was evidenced on the bus during observations and those rebels changed the norm temporarily on the bus. Though once they left the bus, it returned to its normal state that is because the bus has an established behavior which creates a societal norm. When the norm is created many people will conform for social validation.
In the opinion of this author the peer pressure, and social validation seem to be the most plausible reasons for why people on the bus conform to the conditions on the bus. Mainly due to the fact that social anxiety is a major deterrent for possible social deviants, people on the bus don’t want to be singled out and thus will avoid a situation that will do that. Therefore people on the bus conform to the established silent behavior because the threat of social anxiety is high enough to curtail social deviance.

posted on Jun, 22 2012 @ 01:29 PM
They won't respect their elders/authority/fellow people. How would you teach to conform when there is no effort on the part of the parents to instill respect for what's right? That's conformity in itself. The knife comment persuades me to think his butt too sore to sit on for a couple days would get the point across. You can explain till you're blue in the face. If you don't have their attention, you're talking to a doorknob.
edit on 22-6-2012 by GoldenRuled because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 22 2012 @ 01:42 PM
reply to post by GoldenRuled

Did you read the post? The situation on the bus does have a connection to the parents sure I'll give you that. However the point of the post was to show what happens when an identity is established on the bus, and how difficult it is to change the identity. Conformity happened on the bus, and no one was brave enough to step up and be a social deviant in the situation. This is why the bullying was carried on for such a long time, conformity and peer pressure.

posted on Jun, 22 2012 @ 01:44 PM
It's important to note the regional logic here
That incident would not have happened in India for example and many other countries
edit on 22-6-2012 by ModernAcademia because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 22 2012 @ 01:58 PM
reply to post by ModernAcademia

Different identities and different ideas concerning social deviance. Like I mentioned in the paper repercussions from breaking the norm are vast. As you pointed out in your post the repercussions must be serious enough to deter social deviance.

posted on Jun, 22 2012 @ 02:02 PM
Most intersting read

I have recently had to start using trains and have observed most of what you write. A young lady was chatting quite loudly on her phone, she had a very nice accent and I was listening intently trying to guess where she got the accent. Every now and again I'd see a head rise above the seats to stare at the young lady. It made me smile to see this but now I've read your post I have a better understanding of what was taking place.

Star and flag for you.

posted on Jun, 22 2012 @ 02:06 PM

Some people are born with it, the rest have to believe in it.

it comes down to the fact that this is one bus, out of millions. I highly doubt through my experiences on earth so far, that every bus of students would of reacted the same way. I can assure you, in some cases the kids bullying would of been in turn beat up due to such actions. As some people's moral compasses may be completely off but others are Spot on.

Conformity only happens when one isn't sure of their sense of self. Once the sense of true self is understood, you stand up for what you believe. I don't care how many people are around, I won't wavier the way I believe simply because others are doing it or believe the opposite. That's to blindly follow, and can never lead anywhere YOU wanted to go anyways, so why bother?

It's a bigger waste of time to follow someone else for their beliefs than to sit at home and do nothing because you wanted.
edit on 22-6-2012 by Moneyisgodlifeisrented because: (no reason given)

posted on Jun, 22 2012 @ 02:38 PM
reply to post by VoidHawk

Haha yup, she would be considered a social deviant in that situation, she broke away from the identity of the group and as such was trying to be pushed back into the group by the looks and stares. Its an interesting phenomenon to watch unfold. People usually try to avoid the socially awkward scenes by going into the digital world. I watched a great show that talked about social conformity it was called mind games I think, its on the Discovery channel.

posted on Jun, 22 2012 @ 02:43 PM
reply to post by Moneyisgodlifeisrented

Your right every bus is a different scene and thus has a different established identity. Its just that when the kid decided to become the social deviant in the situation, and found social validation the identity switched. Some buses conform to different behaviors, this bus in question conformed to the behavior that we saw. Then positive peer pressure took over and the kids did whatever they could to find social validation. Courage does play a role, but courage isn't the only thing that creates a social deviant.

new topics

top topics


log in