Poverty and InequalitySexual and Reproductive HealthFamily, Maternal & Child HealthMethodology

Social conformity despite individual preferences for distinctiveness

TitleSocial conformity despite individual preferences for distinctiveness
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsSmaldino, PE, Epstein, JM
JournalR Soc Open Sci
Date PublishedMar
ISBN Number2054-5703
Accession Number26064615
Keywordsanti-conformity, opinion dynamics, optimal distinctiveness, social influence

We demonstrate that individual behaviours directed at the attainment of distinctiveness can in fact produce complete social conformity. We thus offer an unexpected generative mechanism for this central social phenomenon. Specifically, we establish that agents who have fixed needs to be distinct and adapt their positions to achieve distinctiveness goals, can nevertheless self-organize to a limiting state of absolute conformity. This seemingly paradoxical result is deduced formally from a small number of natural assumptions and is then explored at length computationally. Interesting departures from this conformity equilibrium are also possible, including divergence in positions. The effect of extremist minorities on these dynamics is discussed. A simple extension is then introduced, which allows the model to generate and maintain social diversity, including multimodal distinctiveness distributions. The paper contributes formal definitions, analytical deductions and counterintuitive findings to the literature on individual distinctiveness and social conformity.