Social Networks, Self Denial, and Median Preferences: Conformity as an Evolutionary Strategy

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Attitudes of conformity can be understood as a product of adaptation. Existing models of conformity invoke preference falsification with individuals hiding their true preferences. We posit an adaptive mechanism for conformity. Because non-conformity leads to costs as a dissenting individual is shut out of social networks and majority coalitions, individuals have an incentive to sublimate their original preferences to a meta-preference for conformity. However, this adaptation is not costless. Resisting original preferences imposes self-denial costs that may exceed the benefits of conforming. Further, a conforming individual foregoes the small probability that his first-best original preferences will be realized.


Conformism endogenous preferences, social networks, preference falsification

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Journal of Socio-Economics