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How do you measure conformity?

by lsusr1 min read17th Jan 20215 comments

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PracticalWorld Optimization
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[P]eople are often mistaken about where they fall on the spectrum from conventional- to independent-minded. Conventional-minded people don't like to think of themselves as conventional-minded. And in any case, it genuinely feels to them as if they make up their own minds about everything. It's just a coincidence that their beliefs are identical to their peers'. And the independent-minded, meanwhile, are often unaware how different their ideas are from conventional ones, at least till they state them publicly.

By the time they reach adulthood, most people know roughly how smart they are (in the narrow sense of ability to solve pre-set problems), because they're constantly being tested and ranked according to it. But schools generally ignore independent-mindedness, except to the extent they try to suppress it. So we don't get anything like the same kind of feedback about how independent-minded we are.

There may even be a phenomenon like Dunning-Kruger at work, where the most conventional-minded people are confident that they're independent-minded, while the genuinely independent-minded worry they might not be independent-minded enough.

How to Think for Yourself by Paul Graham

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"They laughed at Galileo. They laughed at Einstein. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown."

It's true that being shunned or attacked is a sign that you've likely done something nonconforming and transgressive. But some things are nonconforming and transgressive just because they're stupid or obnoxious.

I think what this means is that trying to measure how non-conformist you are, and hoping that "the more non-conformist the better", is a mistake. Being unlike other people isn't a good goal, in itself, because most ways of being unlike other people are not i... (read more)

1Stuart Anderson10mo-

If you get attacked, you are not fully conventional... but it is not obvious where are you on the independent thinking scale. You can be attacked also for doing the most stereotypical form of rebellion (paint your eyes black, and wear black clothes with pieces of metal, or whatever it is kids these days do instead).

Sorry for a political example, but I assume that half of Trump's voters consider themselves perfectly independently thinking, while from outside, they are just another mob. In the same way, probably most SJWs. Generally, most "anything that already has a name".

This makes me think of two kinds of moderates. It is not literally about conformity but we can find a good criterion for conformity/independent thinking in there: Looking at their opinion spectrum and seeing if they are too smooth and/or short tailed to come from mostly one person. 
I'd guess you can try to find accidental members for most groups. 

  • Look at their spectrum of ideas. They should scatter differently around the group ideal.
  • They probably have opinions about other things than socially enforced, might not really have them where enforced.
  • The set of groups they belong to probably seems less transparently coherent than for more conform people.
  • They make 'stupid mistakes' by civilisational standards because they reject some of the long found solutions to sometimes find something new and often find something that does not work or just looks quirky.

If you yourself are an accidental member of a group with a strong identity you might feel much less belonging than others. You might even be surprised to be counted as a member as others see the (accidental) fit and it means little to you. 

More markers for self observing conformity would be quite useful.