Social pressure: what it is, its characteristics and how it affects us

People want to feel like they are part of a society. We have to be satisfied with our desire for relevance, which is why sometimes we are “forced” to do or say things that we don’t really want to do.

Social pressure is a psychological and social phenomenon in which people change their behavior, attitudes and even opinions to please others and thus avoid being rejected or marginalized.

This phenomenon can occur at any age and several factors determine it, although it is particularly common in adolescence. Below we will see what it is and why young people are more sensitive to social pressure.

    What is social pressure?

    Social pressure is the influence exerted by a social group that causes the recipient to change their attitudes, thoughts or even values. This influence, also known as peer pressure, while not necessarily negative, can influence the person receiving it so much that they even change their personality and belief system in order to satisfy others.

    This pressure it can be exercised consciously or unconsciously. When given intentionally, the person or group doing it is intended to change a behavior or attitude in the people they wish to influence. This type of influence is generally granted when it is part of political formations or religious and social movements, exercised by the leader or the elite of these formations with their public or their followers.

    One of the times when more social pressure can be felt is youth, especially in adolescence, although it is also present during childhood. Whether in school, high school, or even college, young people may feel like other people want them to behave or think in a certain way, and fear that if they don’t end up being outcasts and marginalized.

    In and of itself, social pressure is neither good nor bad, but it can be a way to encourage negative behaviors that can spread in society, especially among adolescents. A person may feel like they have to do something or say something, even if it is completely contrary to what their system of values ​​and ethics tells them to be right, in order to fit into the group of people they are. she considers referents or socially attractive.

    Social pressure continues to be present throughout our lives and in one way or another conditions our actions and ideas.

      Social pressure and decision making

      While one might think that decision-making is an individual process, the truth is that the opinions of others can greatly condition him. Decisions are often based on the influence of the reference group or social referents. Everyone acts according to what he perceives of the social environment and if he considers that his actions or opinions could go against this medium, it is likely that he will soften, modify or directly not. say or say them.

      There are many studies that show how people, as gregarious animals that we are, change our minds when we see that everyone has a point of view that is contrary to our own. We change our opinion in order not to feel alienated from society, to avoid rejection and to be able to stay in a group considered as a benchmark.

      One of the most important scientists in the field of social pressure is Salomon Asch, a psychologist known to conduct various experiments to see how social peer pressure can influence the judgment of the experimental subject. In one of his experiments, Asch brought together eight participants, including seven actors. The test consisted of answering a series of simple questions that had nothing to do with the topic of the research.

      The experiment aimed to see how the only true participant in the experiment reacted when he discovered that others were wrongly answering such simple questions that were asked. You would think that since these were simple questions, the participant would answer them correctly every time, regardless of what others answered. In fact, the participant, after several attempts, he preferred to answer incorrectly and agree with the false participants say the answer you knew was right.

      Social pressure is responsible for us to act often in accordance with the reference social group, even if it is radically opposed to what we want to do. We do this for reasons such as fear of rejection, a desire for acceptance, insecurity, and fear of criticism. Social cognition plays a key role in the degree of influence of others on oneself.

      Other important psychologists such as Elliot Aronson and Leon Festinger have also studied this phenomenon of social psychology. compare values ​​on a group, previously issued individually and, later, in front of the social group, which varied remarkably.

        Social pressure in adolescence

        The life in which most social pressures are received is adolescence. It is natural during this phase to want to please others, to want to integrate into a very intense group. For this reason, friends and classmates are often under great pressure at these ages. Young people feel the need to be part of a group, whether it is a group of friends or something with a more influential team culture, like a sports team, a music group, a swim club…

        From the age of 12, young people form their first opinions on how the world works. His first views on certain issues, political positions and various ideas emerge. Thinking evolves throughout adolescence. As a result, young people can have very different opinions, which makes it difficult to cohesion. It is at the same time that the need for adhesion increases, which leads to conflict, forcing adolescents to choose between expressing their sincere opinions or modifying them to fit, and this is the most common.

        In other words, most adolescents, for fear of being rejected, he puts aside his personal convictions in exchange for belonging to a certain social group. Although this situation is not permanent, as over time people come to respect their ideology, in adolescence the desire for acceptance is so intense that it causes them to hide any opinion that they believe is endangering. their social acceptance.

        It goes without saying There are many occasions when young people fully embrace the ideals of the group and end up feeling good about it.. This is neither negative nor positive, because social influence on its own does not imply harm, it only makes it difficult for a person to be totally authentic. In fact, within the family, parents and older siblings also exert their influence, which is primarily positive and shapes the adolescent’s personality and belief system.

        Social pressure is negative when its influence causes behavior that is harmful to the individual.. Among these behaviors we would find all those that were detrimental to his health, endangered his work and his academic practice or confronted him with his family, such as drug consumption, criminal activities, self-mutilation, risky behavior, withdrawal. respect towards adults.


          The causes of social pressure they tend to have more to do with the person being influenced than with the social group that exerts it. An important factor behind this is the need to belong to a social group, a very high need in adolescence and which is why young people are so influential at this age. In adulthood, in addition to having a certain desire to belong to a social group, one of the factors that most explains social pressure is the fear of rejection.

          We humans have a life very defined by social models. The idea is widespread in most cultures that after a certain age reached, some social requirements are not met. we start to feel anguish believing that it is not socially valid. For example, not getting married before a certain age or not having children. Many people come to feel rejected when they see that they do not respect established social rules.

          It’s that fear of being left behind, coupled with social pressure from people your age and other important people as parents or siblings, it despairs and behaves by thinking more of the opinion of others than of their desires. People who feel this way do their best to find a partner and have children, not wondering whether they want it or not, but out of fear of not being a social partner. Social pressure forces them to marry and start a family, for the simple fact that they believe is what society expects of them and, if they don’t comply, they are not worth it.

          Other causes that could explain how social pressure comes to have so much power in some people are:

          • Personal insecurity
          • Low self esteem

          • Conflicts with personality
          • Impairments in physical appearance
          • Feel inferior
          • Lack of motivation
          • Need of recognition
          • Difficulty reporting
          • Feeling of social rejection
          • Lack of affection

          If any of the above factors occurs, the social pressure that the individual feels more than a social problem it is a health problem. It is advisable to go see a psychologist to work on these aspects, to help him gain more self-esteem, not to be shared too much with others and to understand that the important thing is that he is the owner of your life, doing what considers you best.

          Bibliographical references

          • Martínez Gallegos, G .; Baez Mansur, PM; Torres Limes, CE (2020). Relationship between social pressure and physical self-concept among Victorian youth. Psychology and Health 31.1 (2020): 113-121. Psychology and health.
          • Armenta Hurtarte, C. (2020). Social pressure of family and friendships in the formation of gender identity among adolescents in Mexico City. Psychological Research Act 10.2: 104-113. Psychological research report.
          • Moussaïd M, Kämmer JE, Analysis PP, Neth H (2013) Social Influence and the Collective Dynamics of Opinion Formation. PLoS ONE 8 (11): e78433.
          • Brown, BB (2004). “Adolescents’ Relationships with Their Peers.” A Lerner, RM; Steinburg, L. (ed.). Textbook of Adolescent Psychology (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ, USA: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. p. 363-394.
          • brown, BB; Eicher, SA; Petrie, S. (1986). The importance of belonging to a peer group (“crowd”) in adolescence. Review of adolescents. 9 (1): 73-96.

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