Being a non-conformist is a sign of high IQ, research finds.
It means that people with higher intelligence are less likely to follow others.
While most people copy each other from time-to-time, those with higher IQs only do so strategically.
Smarter people prefer to make their own decisions rather than following others.
Dr Michael Muthukrishna, who led the study, said there is nothing wrong with conformity:
“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.”
The conclusions come from a study of 101 people who did a simple task that involved comparing the lengths of various lines.
Before deciding which line was longest, people were told what other people thought.
The results showed that most preferred to follow others.
More intelligent people, though, were surer of the answer and not as influenced by other views.
However, when unsure which line was longest, people with higher IQs were more likely to go with the majority.
The classic study on conformity was carried out by Solomon Asch just after WWII.
It revealed that people would deny unambiguous information from their own senses just to conform with other people.
Dr Muthukrishna said conformity is often no bad thing:
“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.”
Dr Muthukrishna said:
“These mathematical theories and experiments contribute to a greater understanding of what it is that makes our species so unique — culture.
Our smarts are acquired, not hardwired.”
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).