By Maggie Dunning
Staff reporter

When you walk into a room full of strangers what is it that you automatically seek? You seek a connection.

Carrie Lane, associate professor of psychology, said, “As humans we need to be with other people. We need to belong. That’s why peer pressure works so effectively.”

Dan Falk, dean of students, said, “I feel like I’m kind of an expert in this area just from personal experience. I played sports all through high school, I played sports in college, grew up in low income and I didn’t do drugs. Never did, never tried it, and ever wanted to try it, but I’m telling you, I was a loner.”

Lane said, “Really peer pressure could be indirect, such as other people are doing it, so then you feel like to fit in, you also have to do it, even though they never asked you to or told you to and never pushed you to.”

Pam Green, associate professor of education said, “Why that is the case is because of the pressure of how we’ve been raised.”

Ethical Values in the Classroom: How College Students Respond is a study published in the Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences by Michele Humbarger and Sharon A. DeVaney.

Professor Green uses it in her introduction into education class as a way to help students understand why they have the ethics they have.

The study breaks up people into groups based on age, gender, in extracurricular activities or not, and whether or not a person is an athlete.

The study done in the article and recreated by Green generated interesting results

Green said, “Females are more ethical than males. Older people are more ethical than younger people. The extracurricular one was the only one that was not significant, and athletes are not as ethical as non-athletes.”

Michelle Adler, assistant professor of education, said “I think the experiences are different, but I think what you feel is big.”

Lai-L Clemons, Director of Campus Life, said, “Maybe you’re not doing something bad per se but you’re always saying ‘yes, yes, yes, yes, yes,’ so then you’re just tired and you’re just drained.”

What are some examples of positive peer pressure and change that has happened because of it?

Green said, “Rosa Parks is a great example of that. She had the courage to stand up and say ‘I want a seat on the bus’ I wouldn’t have said that if I was her, I would have done what they were expecting me to do.”

Lane said, “Societally it makes sense that it is so powerful and we learn it, but it has a basis in how we are constructed to be influenced by it.”

Cheryl Rude, associative professor of leadership studies and director of leadership at Southwestern, said, “There’s something about our human condition that makes us susceptible and makes us also willing to use it and then also I think we learn a lot of things by watching, participating.”

Why does peer pressure affect us so much?

Green said, “If you don’t have that personal confidence in yourself, if you’re more uncertain about that, I think you would be more likely to just go along with the flow and not make waves.”

Adler said, “I think often when you come in as an 18-year-old, you often don’t know who you are and you are more likely in a quest to find a spot.”

Who feels peer pressure most often?

Falk said, “People pleasers, just nice people that want to help people make people happy. You’re kind of always saying ‘yes’ and before you know it, you’re giving into peer pressure.”

Adler said, “I think that sometimes followers make a purposeful choice to be a follower. I think some people know that they are just not cut out to be a leader. So you choose to follow. The question is ‘are you following who you should be following?’ You can’t have all Indian chiefs. You have to have some just Indians who are willing to follow along.”

Do people use peer pressure purposefully on others?

Clemons said, “I think that it’s just easier to me, if you’re a stronger leader to push people into peer pressure.”

Adler said, “It can be positive or negative but I think that people quickly realize where their strengths are for getting what they want or to get other people to do what they want.”

How far is peer pressure spread in the world?

“I think that the ability for peer pressure to be more widespread that it might affect a trend with social media is definitely out there,” said Rude.

Clemons said, “A lot of things our international students would do at home they might not do here. Some of the things they do here, they might not do at home.”

“Peer pressure is why people wear suits to work. There’s no law that you have to. It’s why you dress up to go to church,” said Lane.

Adler said, “That’s the way the world works.”

Falk has a few tips to keep students calm under peer pressure:

  1. Think about the future.
  2. Think of the consequences.
  3. Think or whether or not you can look your guardian in the eyes and tell them what you did.

Maggie Dunning is a freshman majoring in communication. You may email her at