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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2015 Aug;109(2):193-209. doi: 10.1037/pspa0000031.

Words speak louder: conforming to preferences more than actions.

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Warrington College of Business Administration, University of Florida.
Booth School of Business, University of Chicago.


Whereas people generally conform to others' choices, this research documents that conformity decreases once others have acted on their chosen options. It suggests words speak louder than actions-people are more likely to conform to others' preferences than their actions. Specifically, people are less likely to follow another person's food choice if that person has already eaten his or her selected food (Study 1), and are less likely to follow others' choices of household items if these choices are framed in terms of action (others "want to have it") rather than preference (others "like it"; Study 2). People's tendency to mentally share others' actions causes the decrease in conformity. Indeed, people recall greater past consumption of items that others have had (Study 3), choose differently only when they can complement (vs. contradict) what others have (Study 4), and are more strongly affected by the choices of those close to them (vs. strangers; Study 5). Finally, even when information about others' actions and preferences are simultaneously available (e.g., in online shopping and the consumption of social media), people are more likely to follow what others prefer, rather than what others have (Study 6).

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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