Anticonformity (counterconformity) refers to when an individual consciously and deliberately challenges the position or actions of the group. Anticonformity is not merely the absence of conformity. Individuals who display anticonformity behaviours are internally motivated to disrupt the balance of the group. Further, anticonformist individuals are motivated by rebelliousness and are not influenced by social forces or norms. Anticonformity has been labelled a dependent behaviour as its manifestation is dependent on the group’s position in regard to an event or situation.
The concept of anticonformity was first studied empirically by psychologist Michael Argyle in 1957. In his 1957 study, Argyle recruited male students and placed them in a two-person group (with one member being a confederate). The pair was asked to judge and rate a painting on a 6-point Likert scale. In one of the conditions, Argyle instructed the confederate to reject the rating made by the participant. Following this rejection, the participant was required to make a second rating of the painting. Argyle used the difference between the two ratings to measure social influence. Argyle’s results showed that nearly 8% of the participants expressed a higher disagreement with their partner on their second rating. Argyle classified these direct and deliberate disagreements as anticonformity behaviours.
The psychologists Richard Willis and Richard Crutchfield proposed an alternate way of measuring and studying anticonformity. Instead of viewing conformity, independence, and anticonformity as degrees on a single continuum, the authors posited that these three dimensions represent vertices of a triangle, which allows for the simultaneous measurement of these dimensions.
Levine and Hogg identified a number of theories to account for the motivations underlying anticonformity behaviours, including:
- Psychological reactance
- Promoting change and innovation
- Establishing individuality
- Avoiding sycophancy
In 1973, Meade and Barnard conducted a study examining anticonformity behaviours in a sample of 60 American and 60 Chinese college students. Their results showed that there was a greater tendency for anticonformity behaviour among the American students compared to the Chinese students. These results may be explained by the type of culture in each country, where America has an individualistic culture compared to the collectivist culture of China.
- Levine, J. M., & Hogg, M. A. (2009). Encyclopedia of groups processes & intergroup relations: Anticonformity. doi:10.4135/9781412972017
- Willis, R. H. (1965). Conformity, independence, and anticonformity. Human Relations, 18, 373-388. doi:10.1177/001872676501800406
- Forsyth, D. R. (2009). Group dynamics. New York: Wadsworth.
- Argyle, M. (1957). Social pressure in public and private situations. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 2, 172-175. doi:10.1037/h0040490
- Willis, R. H. (1963). Two dimensions of conformity-nonconformity. Sociometry, 26, 499-513. doi:10.1177/001872676501800406
- Kretch, D., Crutchfield, R. S., & Ballachery, E. L. (1962). Individual in society. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Meade, R. D., & Barnard, W. A. (1973). Conformity and anticonformity among Americans and Chinese. The Journal of Social Psychology, 89, 15-24. doi:10.1080/00224545.1973.9922563
- Bond, R., & Smith, P. B. (1996). Culture and conformity: A meta-analysis of studies using Asch’s (1952b, 1956) line judgment task. Psychological Bulletin, 119, 111-137.