Tuesday, May 03, 2011

How Norms are Set in Groups

The Wall Street Journal has a good article about the latest research regarding how norms are established in groups.  We all know that pressures for conformity exist in groups, and the article examines that tendency in a variety of ways.  I found the point regarding innovation to be the most interesting one.  Here is an excerpt:

Researchers have studied how new ideas and innovations—whether the latest fashion, electronic gadget or slang word—are introduced and spread within a group. Individuals who innovate tend to be somewhat isolated from the rest of the group, researchers say. Being too much a part of a group may constrain one's ability to think outside of convention, says Christian Crandall, a professor of social psychology at the University of Kansas, Lawrence, who studies social norms. "There's a freedom to innovate" that comes with isolation, Dr. Crandall says. Though innovators may be isolated, the group often adopts their innovations because these new ideas or objects are an accessible way for members of the group to bond or signal solidarity. It could be a baseball cap worn backwards, or a pocket square. Each conveys a different identity. But before others will take up the new idea, someone central to the group, with more connections than the innovator, has to recognize it.

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