Are you more of a conformist during flu season?

Looking back on social psychology’s greatest hits, my mind always drifts first to studies on conformity, largely because they make such good stories. Take Asch, for instance. Who would’ve thought that so many people would willingly follow the crowd in giving a blatantly wrong answer about line length? And then, of course, there’s Milgram. It is still shocking to imagine two-thirds of participants agreeing to shock another person up to the highest possible voltage. (Ok, so that’s technically obedience, not conformity, but you get the picture.)

Although studies of conformity fell out of fashion years ago, interest in the origins of conformist behavior are back in a big way, and the theorized reasons are definitely not what you might expect. Continue reading