While it is natural to want to conform to a group, there are people who are more likely to resist this peer pressure and those who give in. Junior Anusha Mishra considers herself to be the former. Self assured and confident but still humble, Mishra makes sure to always voice her opinions and uses her leadership skills to help run French Honors Society as vice president.
“A lot of the time people don’t like to take control, and I like organizing, so I usually end up filling a leadership role,” Mishra said.
While Mishra has the ability to take command of a group of people, she doesn’t pressure people to do things they don’t want to do, while other leaders can do just that. Oftentimes peer pressure can be positive and supportive for kids and, in turn, plays a large role in child and adolescent development, as stated by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP).
On the other hand, peer pressure can be negative. The AACAP says students are more likely to cheat, steal or skip class because a friend tells them to, and the majority of teenagers with substance abuse problems began using drugs as a result of peer pressure.
To some people, it might seem strange that teenagers would involve themselves in risky behavior just because their friends tell them to. Michaela Petsch, the Graduate Assistant of Park University’s Counseling Center says it is because of many different reasons that individuals give into peer pressure.
“I think the main reason for falling into peer pressure is insecurity,” Petsch said. “I think when people are insecure in themselves, they are more apt to do something outside of their character to gain affirmation.”
Upholding morals despite the pressure is something junior Nichole Iagorashvili believes is one of the most important things to do.
“[Morals] help guide us in life and help us make choices, and they allow people to stand apart from each other,” Iagorashvili said.[quote][Morals] help guide us in life and help us make choices, and they allow people to stand apart from each other, –Nichole Iagorashvili, junior [/quote]
Also believing in standing firm with beliefs, Mishra has not been a victim of negative peer pressure because she is able to recognize when it is occurring. She believes that good peer pressure can motivate people to be better, but bad peer pressure can force people to do things they don’t want to do.
Even in a large group of people, Mishra always tries to stand by her beliefs. Last year, in her AP world studies class, the students took part in a mock presidential election and the candidates were narrowed down to Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. While most of her classmates were either voting for Clinton or Trump, Mishra decided to vote for Bernie despite her classmates pressuring her to vote for the other two candidates, arguing she was wasting her vote and helping the Trump side.
“I definitely do at least the good kind, probably some bad peer pressure, too, but I can’t really recognize that,” Mishra said. “I’m not afraid to have an opinion that is different from other people, so I’m not scared of standing out, which is why peer pressure happens, I think.”
Peer pressure can come from one person or a whole group, but that influence is not individualistic thinking but instead conformity. Group thinking, or the term for a group of people who desire harmony and conformity that results in dysfunctional decision making, can have downsides. A study by ScienceDirect compared people’s brains when they were alone versus in a group, and this neuroscientific research found that groups of people are more disconnected from their moral beliefs because they believed to be more anonymous and less likely to be caught abandoning their ideologies.
For the study, the participants answered a question that gave the researchers an insight into their personal morality with statements such as “I have stolen food from shared refrigerators,” and “I always apologize after bumping into someone.” Then the participants played a game while in a brain scanner one as part of a team, and the other individually. When people were alone and saw similar moral statements to their own, their brains showed more activity in the prefrontal cortex, suggesting strong morals. When the participants played in a group, individual’s brains reacted with less intensity indicating a weaker identification with people’s own moral ideals.
“Groupthink, in my opinion, is always a problem,” Petsch said. “Cohesion, however, is a good thing. A cohesive group is always on the same level. There is no silencing and neglect to listening in a cohesive group.”
Along with safety in numbers there is also power. Iagorashvili learned this when she was younger and felt obligated to pretend to like anything the people around her enjoyed.
“[Peer pressure] doesn’t happen anymore because when I was younger, I’d give into peer pressure to seem ‘cooler’ and more liked,” Iagorashvili said. “Now, I don’t really care about stuff like that; I’d rather make my own rules and prefer to be in control of situations.