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Conformists, Step Aside: Everyone Loves Misfits!

When it comes to dating, almost everyone gets the feeling they’re supposed to fit a certain image. To get a date, we can often feel pressured to keep parts of our personality a secret. Some people even feel like they should pretend to like everything their partner likes. Researchers in Australia ran five tests in a study to check if this belief was true. The Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin published their paper, “A Critical Test of the Assumption That Men Prefer Conformist Women and Women Prefer Nonconformist Men” just two years ago. After testing groups of straight and bisexual men and women, they found out that, overall, people find misfits more attractive!

So What Does “Non-Conformist” Mean?

Simply put, “non-conformist” means to not go along with the group. When the researchers showed potential romantic partners to the subjects, they described the person as either someone who stands out from a group or as someone who blends in with the group. For example, they gave the subjects two profiles for two different people and would describe one person as “not easily convinced to change her ideas, and often does her own thing rather than fit in with the group” and the other as “happy to go along with what others are doing, and to change her opinions and preferences rather than cause too much fuss.”

In Study 4, researchers found out that non-conformity was actually correlated with dating success! Then, in Study 5, researchers found that subjects thought better of their ex-partners if they were perceived as more non-conforming. This might be because non-conformity is associated more with positive traits like confidence and openness.

Women Think Men Dislike Misfits

In the first two studies, researchers asked the subjects how much they thought other people preferred conformity versus non-conformity. Overall, women overestimated how much men preferred “traditional” or “conformist” women. Both men and women preferred non-conformists overall. This kind of explains many people’s approaches to dating culture. Oftentimes, women feel the need to restrain themselves around potential boyfriends.

Matthew Hornsey, a social psychologist at the University of Queensland is also interested in this phenomenon. He told Scientific American: “The old-fashioned gender stereotype—that men go for conformist, submissive women—has been slow to die… I’m intrigued by the notion of the ‘girls’ night out’ and how many women feel as though they can be more unguarded without men around—more relaxed, more crass, more honest, more funny.”

It’s Probably a Generational Thing

An important thing to note is that these studies focused mostly on people around 20 years old. As a result, the people saying they prefer misfits are probably all born in the same generation. Compared to our parents’ generation, we tend to prioritize individuality more. Someone born in a different generation, like the Baby Boomer generation, might actually look down on people who stick out. Conformity has definitely been more attractive during other periods of time.

What Do You Think?

Do you like people who go with the flow or people who go out of their way to separate themselves? Would you call yourself one of the misfits? Leave a comment below!

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Hornsey, M. J., Wellauer, R., Mcintyre, J. C., & Barlow, F. K. (2015). A Critical Test of the Assumption That Men Prefer Conformist Women and Women Prefer Nonconformist Men. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin,41(6), 755-768. doi:10.1177/0146167215577366



Edited by Viveca Shearin

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