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Contrarian vs. Conformist


Explanations > Preferences > Contrarian vs. Conformist

Contrarian | Conformist | So what?


Some people like to go their own sweet way, whilst other want to go your way.


Some people are just 'ornery, as others might say. You tell them to do one thing and they go and do the opposite. It is often that they need to assert their identity or maintain control by deciding things for themselves. They may even see any attempt at persuasion as a form of coercion.

A lot of teenagers tend to fall into the Contrarian camp, especially if the other person is a parent or anyone in authority. When their hormones are telling them to grow up and leave home, they will push against anything that tries to set a direction for them.



At the other end of the scale to the Contrarian is the Conformist, who follows rules and Social Norms to the letter. They often have a strong need for belonging and/or esteem may conform from fear of rejection.

Context is important to which end of the scale choose and the same person can occupy both ends. Thus a teenager will be highly conformist when in their 'gang'.

As with any scale, some people just don't want to play. Balanced people will try to take a middle road, thinking about what you say and neither

So what?

'Reverse psychology' is a popular term for what you do with contrarians. Suggest they do the opposite of what you want them to do. This can, of course, get tricky when they realize what you are doing. Another variant is to tell them that someone else wants them to do something, especially someone they do not particularly like.

Conformists will just want to do what you want - just so long as they like you and you are in their list of people to follow. So make friends and ask nicely. You can also point out objective rules and laws, or note how important it is to other people that they conform.

See also

Attraction vs. avoidance preference, Reactance Theory, Social Identity Theory

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