Conformity & Romance Scams And How It Affects Scam Victims

• Vianey Gonzalez – Psychologist, Certified Deception Professional, Psychology Advisory Panel & Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.
• Tim McGuinness, Ph.D. – Anthropologist, Scientist, Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.

One Of The Types Of Manipulation You Experienced Was Of Your Own Making! But Was Still Not Your Fault!

Conformity is the act of changing your behaviors in order to fit in or go along with the people around you. Conformity is a survival response.

In some cases, this social influence might involve agreeing with or acting like the majority of people in a specific group, or it might involve behaving in a particular way in order to be perceived as “normal” by the group.

Essentially, conformity involves giving in to group pressure.

But conformity can also be with another individual – such as a romance scammer!

 What Is Conformity?

Conformity is a powerful social force that can influence our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It is also an evolved survival response in both humans and animals.

In humans, conformity is thought to have evolved because it helped us to stay safe in a dangerous world. By conforming to the group, we were less likely to be singled out by predators or other threats. Conformity also helped us to learn from the experience of others and to avoid making mistakes that could be costly.

In animals, conformity is also thought to have evolved as a survival response. For example, animals that live in herds or flocks are less likely to be attacked by predators if they stay together and move as a group. Conformity also helps animals to find food and mates.

Here are some examples of conformity in humans and animals:

  • Humans:
    • People are more likely to conform to the majority opinion, even if they know that the majority is wrong.
    • People are more likely to conform to the norms of their social group, such as how to dress and behave.
    • People are more likely to conform to the expectations of authority figures.
  • Animals:
    • Fish swim in schools for protection from predators.
    • Birds flock together to find food and mates.
    • Herd animals such as sheep and cattle stay together for safety.

Conformity can be both positive and negative. On the one hand, it can help us to stay safe and to learn from others. On the other hand, it can also lead us to make bad decisions or to go along with things that we don’t agree with.

It is important to be aware of the power of conformity and to be critical of the information and influences that we are exposed to. We should also be willing to stand up for our beliefs, even if it means going against the majority.

Types of Conformity


Individual conformity is a frequent occurrence, especially in the context of romantic relationships. It involves a process where one person adjusts their behavior and even their thoughts to align with the expectations and desires of their partner.

This phenomenon is readily observable in the realm of romantic love. Individuals undergoing this form of conformity often undergo noticeable changes, which are apparent to their friends and family. However, the person adapting their behavior is often oblivious to these alterations.

This also happens in a romance scam.


Throughout this article, we will frequently refer to the concept of a “group.” However, it’s essential to recognize that a group can manifest in various forms. Sometimes, it is embodied by a dominant individual who guides and controls, while in other instances, it may consist of just one person, as is the case in a romantic relationship. The evaluation of conformity to a group depends on the specific outcomes and intentions associated with that particular group.

The Motivations Behind Conformity

Numerous motivations drive people to conform, and they can be categorized into different types. Often, individuals seek guidance from the group or another individual when uncertain about how to behave. This can be beneficial, as those individuals may possess more knowledge or experience. However, it’s crucial to note that conformity is not inherently virtuous, as historical examples, like conformity to the Nazi Party, demonstrate.

In some situations, conformity arises from the desire to avoid appearing foolish. This inclination becomes particularly pronounced when individuals are unsure of the appropriate course of action or when expectations are ambiguous.

Researchers have identified two primary reasons behind conformity: informational influence and normative influence.

Informational Influence:

Informational influence occurs when people modify their behavior to be accurate. When confronted with uncertainty regarding the correct response, individuals often look to others they perceive as better informed or more knowledgeable, using their actions as a model for their own. For example, in an educational setting, a student might agree with a classmate’s judgments if they view that classmate as highly intelligent or defer to the teacher’s judgment.

Normative Influence:

Normative influence stems from the desire to avoid punishment (such as complying with classroom rules despite personal disagreement) and gain rewards (such as behaving in a certain manner to earn others’ favor).

In the context of a romance scam, victims often exhibit conformity influenced by both informational and normative factors. Informational influence arises from victims perceiving the scammer as intelligent, successful, or heroic. Normative influence is evident as victims conform to maintain their idyllic romantic illusion and avoid any potential consequences.

Exploring Conformity in More Detail

Conformity represents a facet of social influence, characterized by a shift in belief or behavior to align with a group. Essentially, it is a form of self-manipulation that occurs instinctively.

This transformation occurs in response to either real factors, involving the actual presence of others, or imagined factors, which pertain to the pressure exerted by social norms or expectations. This influence can emanate from a group as a whole or from an individual.

A simplified definition of conformity is “yielding to group pressures.” These pressures can manifest in various ways, such as bullying, persuasion, teasing, or criticism. Conformity is also referred to as majority influence or group pressure.

The term “conformity” often denotes agreement with the majority or others, driven either by a desire to fit in or be liked (normative influence), a quest for accuracy (informational influence), or simply adherence to a specific social role (identification).

Jenness Study:

One pioneering psychologist, Jenness, conducted a landmark study in 1932, which was the first investigation into conformity. In this study, participants were presented with an ambiguous situation involving a glass bottle filled with beans.

Initially, Jenness asked each participant to individually estimate the number of beans in the bottle. Subsequently, he assembled the group in a room with the bottle and instructed them to arrive at a collective estimate through discussion. (Consider how this scenario might relate to a trial jury or an anti-scam group.)

After the group discussion, participants were once again tasked with estimating the number of beans independently to assess whether their initial estimations had been influenced by the majority’s views.

Jenness then conducted individual interviews with the participants, inquiring if they wished to modify their initial estimates or adhere to the group’s estimate. Nearly all participants adjusted their individual guesses to align more closely with the group’s consensus.

Varieties of Conformity

Psychologists typically categorize conformity into four distinct types:

Compliance (Or Group Acceptance)

Compliance arises when an individual acquiesces to influence with the hope of receiving a positive response from another person or group. They adopt the suggested behavior because they anticipate specific rewards, approval, or wish to avoid certain punishments or disapproval by conforming. In essence, it involves publicly conforming to the majority’s views while privately holding differing opinions. This dynamic is not uncommon in marriages and relationships. Compliance ceases when external pressures to conform dissipate, making it a temporary shift in behavior.

Internalization (Genuine Acceptance Of Group Norms)

Internalization occurs when an individual embraces influence because the behavior in question aligns with their intrinsic values and is, therefore, personally rewarding. For instance, in the context of romance scams, individuals may internalize behaviors associated with love, affection, and attention. This form of conformity entails both public and private alignment with the group’s beliefs, representing the deepest level of conformity. Consequently, the individual’s behavior change becomes enduring, at least over an extended period. It is most likely to occur when the majority, which could be the group or an influential individual (alpha figure), possesses superior knowledge, while the minority (the individual conforming) lacks the expertise to challenge the majority’s position.

Identification (Or Group Membership)

Identification comes into play when an individual embraces influence to establish or sustain a fulfilling, self-defining relationship with another person or group. It often involves conforming to the expectations associated with a specific social role, such as those of nurses, police officers, military personnel, or political party members. Similar to compliance, there may not necessarily be a change in private opinion. Identification revolves around the desire to harmonize with a particular social role.


Ingratiational conformity occurs when a person conforms to impress or gain favor and acceptance from others. This phenomenon can manifest in various settings, including the workplace or support groups. It resembles normative influence but is driven by the aspiration for social rewards rather than the fear of rejection. In this form of conformity, group pressure does not factor into the decision to conform; instead, individuals seek social approval and recognition.

Explanations of Conformity

Conformity appears to be driven by two primary motives:

Normative Conformity

Normative conformity occurs when an individual yields to group pressure with the aim of fitting in or avoiding rejection by the group. In this form of conformity, the person outwardly embraces the group’s views but privately holds differing opinions. Typically, normative conformity involves compliance, where individuals conform publicly to be in sync with the group while maintaining their own beliefs privately.

Informational Conformity

Informational conformity tends to arise when a person lacks knowledge or encounters an ambiguous, unclear situation. In such cases, individuals turn to the group for guidance or compare their behavior with the group’s actions. This type of conformity typically involves internalization, where individuals not only accept the group’s perspectives but also adopt them as their own.

The Sherif (1935) Autokinetic Effect Experiment

In an effort to illustrate that people conform to group norms when faced with ambiguous situations, psychologist Sherif (1935) conducted a landmark experiment utilizing the autokinetic effect. This optical illusion occurs when a small spot of light, projected onto a screen in a dark room, appears to move, despite remaining stationary.

Participants in the study were asked to estimate how much the light had moved, and their individual estimates varied significantly, ranging from 20cm to 80cm.

Sherif then assembled participants into groups of three, carefully arranging the composition of each group. He ensured that two members had similar estimates when tested individually, while the third had a notably different estimate. Each group member had to voice their estimate of the light’s movement.

Over multiple trials, Sherif observed that the group’s estimates gradually converged to a common estimate. The individual whose estimate initially differed significantly from the others in the group eventually conformed to the view of the majority.

Sherif’s experiment demonstrated that people tend to conform rather than make independent judgments, seeking consensus within the group. This phenomenon is not limited to support activities but also occurs in hate groups, indicating that conformity plays a role in both recovery and expressions of anger and hatred.

The results of this experiment underscore the tendency for individuals in ambiguous situations, such as the autokinetic effect, to rely on others who may possess more knowledge or better judgment for guidance. This process of adopting the group norm in pursuit of doing what is perceived as right, albeit based on limited information, is known as informational conformity.

Non-Conformity: Resisting Social Pressure

It’s important to recognize that not everyone succumbs to social pressure. Numerous factors contribute to an individual’s inclination to maintain independence and resist internal manipulation from the group.

For instance, psychologists have unearthed distinctions in conformity between Western and Eastern cultures. People from Western societies, like the United States and the United Kingdom, tend to exhibit more individualistic tendencies. They place value on not blending in entirely within group settings, as they prioritize independence and self-sufficiency. Paradoxically, this desire for individuality can also be viewed as a form of conformity. Consequently, they are more predisposed to engage in non-conformity.

In contrast, Eastern cultures, such as those found in various Asian countries, tend to prioritize the needs of family and other social groups over individual desires. These societies are often referred to as collectivist cultures, and individuals within them are more inclined to conform to the norms and expectations of their social groups.

Avoiding Conformity

Here are some tips for resisting conformity:

  • Be aware of your own biases and prejudices.
  • Be critical of the information and influences that you are exposed to.
  • Seek out different perspectives and opinions.
  • Be willing to stand up for your beliefs, even if it means going against the majority.
  • Find a support group of people who share your values and beliefs.

The Value for Potential Crime Victims

Avoiding becoming a crime victim is a critical concern for personal safety, and nonconformity can play a role in reducing the risk of victimization. Here are some ways in which nonconformity can be valuable in this regard:

  1. Awareness of Surroundings: Nonconformists often pay more attention to their surroundings and are less likely to become complacent in their environment. This heightened awareness can help them spot potential dangers and avoid risky situations.
  2. Independent Thinking: Nonconformists tend to think independently and critically assess situations. They are less likely to follow the crowd blindly, which can protect them from falling into traps set by criminals who exploit groupthink or peer pressure.
  3. Assertiveness: Nonconformists are more likely to assert their boundaries and stand up for themselves. Criminals often target individuals who appear passive or easily influenced, so assertiveness can deter potential threats.
  4. Risk Assessment: Nonconformists are generally better at evaluating risks and making informed decisions. They are less likely to take unnecessary risks or engage in activities that could expose them to criminal activity.
  5. Avoiding High-Risk Situations: Nonconformists may choose to avoid situations and locations that are known for criminal activity or have a high risk of victimization. This proactive approach helps reduce the likelihood of encountering crime in the first place.
  6. Personal Safety Precautions: Nonconformists are more likely to take personal safety precautions seriously. This includes practices like locking doors, being cautious with personal information, and staying vigilant when out in public.
  7. Resisting Scams and Manipulation: Criminals often use manipulative tactics to deceive and victimize individuals. Nonconformists are more resistant to these tactics and less likely to fall for scams or be manipulated into compromising situations.

It’s important to note that while nonconformity can offer some protection against victimization, it should be balanced with other safety measures, such as awareness, self-defense training, and community engagement. Additionally, nonconformity should not be taken to an extreme that puts an individual at risk or alienates them from positive social interactions. Finding a healthy balance between independence and social engagement is key to personal safety and well-being.


When thinking about conformity, the first thing to understand is that we all do it – we are mostly unaware that we do it, but we do it. This is hard-wired into us dating from the early days of being familiar or pack animals, but clearly from our tribal days. Tribes need their individuals to conform to the needs of the tribe.

However, this comes into romance scams in several ways:

  1. Perception of online safety. This is and has never been completely true, it is a conformist’s view that is adopted because we both want it to be true and the others believe it to be.
  2. Online Dating. If all the analysis was really made available, it is a complete failure. Yes, it creates more dates, and more social engagements, but statistics have shown that as dating services have increased in use so have divorces and shorter-lasting relationships – because we deeply believe that it is easy to replace relationships – another conformist view.
  3. Scammer compliance. As victims enter into online relationships the normal conformance applies, so the scammer only has to dangle the desired rewards in front of the victim to get their conformance.

While we say that the scam is not the victim’s fault, we also hope that the victim will learn and better understand how their own mind plays such a role in their victimization, and how much control they can maintain by awareness of these mechanisms.

Remember, you are not alone. There are other people who think and feel like you do. Don’t be afraid to stand up for what you know to be true

Confirmed original by

SCARS Resources:

PLEASE NOTE: Psychology Clarification

The following specific modalities within the practice of psychology are restricted to psychologists appropriately trained in the use of such modalities:

  • Diagnosis: The diagnosis of mental, emotional, or brain disorders and related behaviors.
  • Psychoanalysis: Psychoanalysis is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals to understand and resolve unconscious conflicts.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a state of trance in which individuals are more susceptible to suggestion. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and pain.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a type of therapy that teaches individuals to control their bodily functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including stress, anxiety, and pain.
  • Behavioral analysis: Behavioral analysis is a type of therapy that focuses on changing individuals’ behaviors. It is often used to treat conditions such as autism and ADHD.
    Neuropsychology: Neuropsychology is a type of psychology that focuses on the relationship between the brain and behavior. It is often used to assess and treat cognitive impairments caused by brain injuries or diseases.

SCARS and the members of the SCARS Team do not engage in any of the above modalities in relationship to scam victims. SCARS is not a mental healthcare provider and recognizes the importance of professionalism and separation between its work and that of the licensed practice of psychology.

SCARS is an educational provider of generalized self-help information that individuals can use for their own benefit to achieve their own goals related to emotional trauma. SCARS recommends that all scam victims see professional counselors or therapists to help them determine the suitability of any specific information or practices that may help them.

SCARS cannot diagnose or treat any individuals, nor can it state the effectiveness of any educational information that it may provide, regardless of its experience in interacting with traumatized scam victims over time. All information that SCARS provides is purely for general educational purposes to help scam victims become aware of and better understand the topics and to be able to dialog with their counselors or therapists.

It is important that all readers understand these distinctions and that they apply the information that SCARS may publish at their own risk, and should do so only after consulting a licensed psychologist or mental healthcare provider.


The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of the Society of Citizens Against Rleationship Scams Inc. The author is solely responsible for the content of their work. SCARS is protected under the Communications Decency Act (CDA) section 230 from liability.







This content and other material contained on the website, apps, newsletter, and products (“Content”), is general in nature and for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical, legal, or financial advice; the Content is not intended to be a substitute for licensed or regulated professional advice. Always consult your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider, lawyer, financial, or tax professional with any questions you may have regarding the educational information contained herein. SCARS makes no guarantees about the efficacy of information described on or in SCARS’ Content. The information contained is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible situations or effects. SCARS does not recommend or endorse any specific professional or care provider, product, service, or other information that may be mentioned in SCARS’ websites, apps, and Content unless explicitly identified as such.

The disclaimers herein are provided on this page for ease of reference. These disclaimers supplement and are a part of SCARS’ website’s Terms of Use

Legal Notices: 

All original content is Copyright © 1991 – 2023 Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc. (Registered D.B.A SCARS) All Rights Reserved Worldwide & Webwide. Third-party copyrights acknowledge.

U.S. State of Florida Registration Nonprofit (Not for Profit) #N20000011978 [SCARS DBA Registered #G20000137918] – Learn more at

SCARS, SCARS|INTERNATIONAL, SCARS, SCARS|SUPPORT, SCARS, RSN, Romance Scams Now, SCARS|INTERNATION, SCARS|WORLDWIDE, SCARS|GLOBAL, SCARS, Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams, Society of Citizens Against Romance Scams, SCARS|ANYSCAM, Project Anyscam, Anyscam, SCARS|GOFCH, GOFCH, SCARS|CHINA, SCARS|CDN, SCARS|UK, SCARS|LATINOAMERICA, SCARS|MEMBER, SCARS|VOLUNTEER, SCARS Cybercriminal Data Network, Cobalt Alert, Scam Victims Support Group, SCARS ANGELS, SCARS RANGERS, SCARS MARSHALLS, SCARS PARTNERS, are all trademarks of Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc., All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Contact the legal department for the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Incorporated by email at