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Does Conforming Make Us More Liked? Perceptions of Conformist and Non-conformist Behaviour

Although social psychologists have long argued that conformity is motivated by a
concern for social approval, very few studies have tested whether conformity actually results in increased approval of the conformist. The present research examined participants’ evaluations of confederates who displayed either conformist or non-conformist behaviour. Studies 1 and 2 used a music task, in which remote confederates either conformed or did not conform to participants’ choices for favourite music clips. Participants evaluated confederates by rating them on a series of both positive and negative descriptors. Relative to non-conformists, conformists were rated more favourably on items that referred to ‘liking’ (e.g., likeableness, willingness to befriend)
(Studies 1 & 2), and less favourably on items that referred to “independence” (e.g.,
independence, originality, strength) (Study 2). Interestingly, although conforming confederates were judged as less independent than were confederates who simply agreed with (rather than conformed to) participants’ choices, conformity did not have a positive effect on liking over and above mere agreement (Study 2). Conformity, rather than being a means of gaining approval,
might be better construed as a means of avoiding disapproval. Study 2 further examined evaluations made by observers who were exposed to the same confederate behaviours as were targets; however, no observer-target difference in ratings was found. Study 3 assessed the degree to which participants valued the traits that they ascribed to people who demonstrated either conformist or non-conformist behaviour. Positive traits associated with conformist behaviour (e.g., agreeableness, cooperativeness) were reported as having a more positive effect on participants’ liking of a person than were positive traits
associated with non-conformist behaviour (e.g., independence, originality). Furthermore, in determining their liking for a conformist, participants reported placing more importance on the conformist’s possessing the positive traits associated with conforming than on their possessing
the negative traits associated with conforming (e.g., dependence, passivity). In spite of their lack of independence, therefore, conformists in Study 2 were liked because participants placed more value on the virtuous aspects of conformity (e.g., agreeableness, cooperativeness). Implications
for our culture’s ambivalent attitudes toward both conformity and independence are discussed.
Date30 August 2010
CreatorsLeone, Tullia
ContributorsPliner, Patricia, Herman, C. Peter
Source SetsUniversity of Toronto
Detected LanguageEnglish

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