BACKGROUND: When individual judgment conflicts with a group, the individual will often conform his judgment to that of the group. Conformity might arise at an executive level of decision making, or it might arise because the social setting alters the individual's perception of the world. METHODS: We used functional magnetic resonance imaging and a task of mental rotation in the context of peer pressure to investigate the neural basis of individualistic and conforming behavior in the face of wrong information. RESULTS: Conformity was associated with functional changes in an occipital-parietal network, especially when the wrong information originated from other people. Independence was associated with increased amygdala and caudate activity, findings consistent with the assumptions of social norm theory about the behavioral saliency of standing alone. CONCLUSIONS: These findings provide the first biological evidence for the involvement of perceptual and emotional processes during social conformity.
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