Let's be successful through cooperation, which conformity is an ingredient of.

Um, this is getting complicated :-)

First, terminology. By "conformity" I mean matching the social expectations. If your tribe expects people like you to dance naked under a full moon, you dance naked under a full moon. If your tribe expects people like you to catch and burn witches, you catch and burn witches. That's conformity.

As an aside, conformity is NOT "having social skills" and non-conformity is NOT "lacking social skills". These are rather different things.

Second, success. Speaking crudely, there are people who Get Shit Done and there are people who don't. People who don't, as you point out, talk and critique and nitpick and delay and form committees and find reasons why that's impossible, etc. etc. (see Mensa).

Basically whether you successfully Get Shit Done depends on your executive function and on the incentives. For a given person the executive function is fairly stable and the incentives, of course, vary a lot in each situation. Notably, people who Get Shit Done are often more non-conformist because they can afford to. They are valuable to their group/organisation/tribe and that gives them the freedom to ignore (within limits) the social expectations. Those who are not as capable are more conformist because they are less valuable, more fungible, and so more in need of maintaining high social approval of themselves.

Third, cooperation. I don't think that cooperation is a function of conformity, outside of extreme cases. Or, rather, let me put it this way: people who Get Shit Done tend to cooperate with those who can provide what they need. They don't care much about social expectations because they care about Getting Shit Done and the conformity is rather peripheral to that. On the other hand people who play social power games do care about conformity because conformity is a major dimension in these social power games.

I suggest that ability to Get Shit Done often depends on getting other people to help do your shit, and that depends on the attitude of those other people, and in some social contexts that attitude will be more positive if you are more willing to conform.

If you are effective enough in other ways, then indeed that may outweigh the effects of nonconformity. But the effects will still be there, and other things being equal collaborative Getting Shit Done will work better for people who aren't too aggressively nonconforming.

To put it differently, in terms of your last paragraph: sometimes Getting Shit Done requires playing social power games, and sometimes success in social power games requires conformity.

Open thread, Apr. 18 - Apr. 24, 2016

by MrMind 1 min read18th Apr 2016176 comments


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