Marketing Papers

Document Type

Working Paper

Date of this Version



Conformity is one of the most widely discussed principles in psychology, but while people often imitate others, sometimes they diverge and avoid what others are doing. When does social influence lead to conformity versus divergence, and why? The present research uses an identity-signaling approach to help explain when social influence attracts or repels. Two experiments demonstrate that while people conform to others in less identity-relevant choice domains, the social identity of others determines whether people conform or diverge in choice domains that are more symbolic of identity. People conform to in-group, or aspiration group, members to ensure desired signals of identity are communicated effectively, but diverge from out-groups, or others they want to avoid being confused with, to avoid sending undesired identity signals. These findings suggest that symbolic meaning plays an important role in responses to social influence.


This is an unpublished manuscript.


social influence, identity, conformity, divergence



Date Posted: 15 June 2018