Being a free spirit and refusing to conform with others is a sign of high IQ, research finds.
People with higher intelligence are less likely to follow the crowd, preferring to make their own decisions.
As a species, humans are remarkably open to social influence: people like to copy others, feeling that there is safety in numbers.
However, the effect can be damaging as some will deny their own senses to go along with others.
Instead, those with higher IQs only follow the crowd strategically.
For the study, 101 people were given a test that involved comparing the lengths of different lines.
They only had to decide which was longest, but not until they had been informed what other people thought.
The results clearly showed that people would deny information from their own senses to fit in with what other people thought.
In other words, many people preferred to be in the majority, rather than to be correct.
However, more intelligent people were less likely to go along with the majority.
The classic study on social influence was carried out by Professor Solomon Asch almost 70 years ago.
He found that 76% of people denied their own senses at least once to go along with others.
Often, though, social conformity is no bad thing, said Dr Michael Muthukrishna, who led the study:
“People are conformist – and that’s a good thing for cultural evolution.
By being conformist, we copy the things that are popular in the world.
And those things are often good and useful.
Our whole world is made up of things that we do that are good for us, but we don’t know why.
And we don’t need to know why.
We just need to know that most people do those things.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Evolution and Behavior (Muthukrishna et al., 2015).