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We All (Think We) Are Non-Conformists

(Perceived) conformity in the self and others

Do you think you are a non-conformist? Research suggests you might not be as much of a non-conformist as you think!

Princeton psychology professor Emily Pronin and colleagues recently tested how much people think they are conformists - and how much they think others are.

In one study, participants (Princeton college students) were given 16 situations and asked how much they would be likely to mimic people's behavior, compared to the average person. Such scenarios included other people asking class questions, other people's clothing in a formal setting, and consumption of alcohol.

Across each scenario, people reported that they would be less influenced by others than other people would be. That is, they thought they would be less likely to conform.

In a second study, 100 i-pod owners read either that conformity in purchases was socially desirable (it helps us connect with other people and relate to them) or undesirable (it prevents individuality). Regardless of if conformity was described as desirable or undesirable, participants rated their i-pod purchase as less influenced by others than others' i-pod purchases.

3 other studies supported the finding that people think they are less susceptible to conformity than others.

To put it in Pronin's words, we all think we are "standing alone in a crowd of sheep."

Pronin's publication available here.