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Conformity or Resistance: How We Handle Change

Conformity or Resistance: How We Handle Change

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Science Fair Project Description

How open are you to changing your behavior in order to "fit in"? To some degree, we all have to conform to social standards. Obeying the law, being respectful, and being polite are examples of societal expectations that we all try to follow in order to be accepted by others and not suffer the consequence for going against those expectations. In this science fair project, you find out how many participants are willing to engage in a new behavior in order fit the group norm.
Complexity level:5
Time required:Extra time is needed to recruit and prepare participants.
Safety concerns:


The key to this 7th grade science project is to set up a staged situation that challenges the experience or beliefs of the participant, in order to determine whether he or she will behave in a manner that is consistent with the group's. It is important to clarify that each of us holds a set of values or beliefs that are deeply seated in our lives, and which would require extraordinary conditions for us to violate them. We may even be willing to die for them. This experiment focuses on challenging belief systems or thoughts that are of less significance to us, such as the color of clothes that we are willing or not willing to wear, or the fact that Sacramento is the capital of California.

Scientific Terms

Conformity, Peer Pressure


  • A minimum of 25 participants that includes both males and females (the greater the number of participants, the more reliable the experiment results).
  • Availability of a large room that can comfortably seat 25 participants (A larger room will be needed for a larger group of participant).
  • Other material needs will depend on how you decide to design the experiment.



  1. Participants will be divided into two groups: "Plants" and "subjects."
  2. Plants are participants who have full knowledge of the science project experiment design and will support you in carrying out the experiment.
  3. Subjects are the participants who have no knowledge of the experiment. You will be observing their behavior.
  4. Based on 25 participants, 10 participants would be subjects and 15 participants would be plants. As there are 10 subjects, you would run the experiment for 10 trials with one subject per trial. The same 15 plants would be used in each trial.
  5. Instruct the plants such that they become fully informed of the experimental design, what is expected of them, and any rules that they need to follow.

Determine the key behavior:

  1. The key behavior is the behavior that will be used to determine if the subject is conforming to the group's behavior. Examples of key behaviors may include:
  • The subject wears a specific color of clothing that the group wears.
  • The subject imitates the group's unique way of raising their hand when they have a question to ask.
  • The subject imitates the group by knocking on the door three times as they pass through the doorway to enter the room.

Examples of settings

You will need a reason for the subjects to participate in this behavioral science experiment, without revealing to them the true nature of the experiment. Examples of settings you can tell them are:

  1. You are conducting an experiment on studying habits.
  2. You want their participation on proposing policy changes to the school dress code.
  3. Tell them it is a social club.

Whatever you tell the subjects, it is important to reveal to them the truth of what they were involved in, at the completion of the experiment.

Collecting Data

Your data will be how often the subject conforms to the behavior of the group (See below for an example)

Experiment example:

  1. The subject is led to believe that he or she is getting involved in an experiment on studying habits.
  2. You start off this junior high school science experiment by telling the participants that they will be taking a multiple choice quiz on basic general knowledge.
  3. Participants are advised that the quiz answer sheets will not be collected but that at the conclusion of the quiz, you will be going over the quiz as a group.
  4. The plants have been previously informed of the nature of the quiz and have been instructed on which "wrong answer" to select in each question (Example: The capital of California is San Diego).
  5. As you go over the completed quiz with the participants, have the participants raise their hands for each answer option they selected. (Example: "How many people chose "A" as the correct answer?").
  6. Observe if the subject raises their hand with the rest of the group, even though they know that the answer "A" is not correct.
  7. Record how the subject responds when there is there is group agreement that the "correct answer" is in fact the wrong answer. Does the subject raise his or her hand to the wrong answer as well, or does the subject challenge the group's decision?
  8. Repeat the experiment with each subject.



  • "Why Do People Follow the Crowd?" from ABC News

Related video

Hey there! Here are some awesome videos about this science project that we think you'll really like. They're not only super fun, but they'll also help you learn more about the science behind the project. So sit back, relax, and get ready to have some fun!!
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