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How do you measure conformity?

by lsusr1 min read17th Jan 20214 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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This is easy: if you are saying or doing something transgressive you'll be shunned or attacked in some manner for it. The more transgressive, the greater the pushback will be.

Unless you're specifically stealthing or greymanning, and doing so well, people will socially clock you way before any cognitive element kicks in. If you stand next to someone weird then the odds of you being ostracised go up. They generally won't even know what's happening within themselves, just that you are outside acceptable parameters for the group.

"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 Anderson4moIf nobody is bothered by you then you're conforming. That was the question asked, wasn't it? Stupid ideas receive some censure, obnoxious ideas receive some censure, threatening ideas receive massive and instant censure. It's not about the speaker being wrong, it's about the speaker being heretical. People will certainly laugh at Bozo the Clown. What they don't do is kill Bozo the Clown. When people come for your tongue or your throat with the knife that's when you know you're saying something transgressive. The virtues of that are irrelevant, merely the fact that it is so outside of norms that harming you becomes more acceptable than ignoring you. Fringe strategies can work. That's why they exist. If someone wants to be different (or has no choice about that) then they will occupy a niche that others won't. For good and for ill. That sounds a lot like something a conformist would say. /s In contexts where the opinions of others are useless because they only approve of the orthodox then the utility of social capital is in the ability to spend it for favours or use it for camouflage. Besides, as a general rule I'm capable of working out whether my solutions are better or not without holding a town meeting.

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".