Why Standing Out From The Crowd Can Make You More Attractive

If you're someone who marches to the beat of your own drum, you may be catching the eye of those around you. Researchers from a 2017 study published in Psychological Studies define nonconformity as "not abiding by the rules that have been defined or laid out by an authority in a particular context." Studies have shown that those who deviate from the norm tend to have a more independent stance on topics and a highly innovative means of self-expression (perĀ Journal of Human Kinetics). Conversely, those who lean towards conformity are said to have more adaptive personalities.

It's been a long-held belief that people prefer partners who are more conforming in nature. Such character traits of pleasantness and obedience have been particularly imposed upon women in society, note researchers from a 2015 study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin who set out to challenge this notion (via Pacific Standard). Through a series of studies, the research team took a more in-depth look at whether men were truly more attracted to conformist women as partners. The researchers also looked at another commonly accepted belief of whether women were truly more romantically drawn to nonconformist men.

Researchers put attraction to the test

In one portion of the five-part study, researchers asked over 100 college students to review the personal profiles of 20 individuals (via Pacific Standard). Some participants looked at profiles of members of the opposite sex and others of the same sex. The bios were structured in a way that painted the person as either a more conformist personality type or as having more nonconformist attitudes. For example, some profiles contained statements expressing how this person likes following along with what others are doing. Other profiles contained statements expressing how this person prefers doing things on their own.

Study participants who looked at bios for people of the opposite sex were asked to rank the perceived attractiveness of that individual and how inclined they felt to go on a date with the person. Participants who looked at profiles of same-sex individuals were asked whether or not they thought members of the opposite sex would be romantically interested in that person.

Both men and women favored nonconformist partners

The study findings revealed that women overestimated men's liking of conformist partners, according to Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Men and women were both found to favor nonconformist romantic partners, which was particularly true amongst men during another portion of the study involving small social interactions with the opposite sex. In another portion of the study involving over 300 participants, researchers found that both men and women felt greater degrees of love and attraction to ex-partners whom they deemed as having more nonconformist personality traits (via Pacific Standard).

In an effort to determine whether these findings regarding partner preference remained true across cultures, the researchers tested the theory with participants from the U.S., U.K., and India. Not only did participants continue to express a preference for nonconformist partners, but the results also showed that nonconforming individuals experienced more dating success and satisfaction. All the more reason to pop in that nose ring, throw on your leather jacket, and hit the town!

Experts suggest that the reason we're drawn to these individuals is likely because it's our natural human instinct to seek out novelty and uniqueness (perĀ BBC). After all, it's adapting to that which is new and different which has allowed humans to survive and evolve over time.

Why nonconformity catches our attention

This kind of novelty-seeking behavior can also be seen in pop culture. Have you ever noticed once a fashion trend, catchphrase, or hit song achieves widespread popularity, it suddenly becomes less appealing to us? Some experts suggest it's this same concept that may explain why, for example, a person might be attracted to an individual with long hair in a room full of people with short hair or vice versa (via BBC). Ironically, if you look back over the decades, however, you'll see a repeating pattern of what was once "out" suddenly becoming "in" again. This is what evolutionary biologist Kaleda Krebs Denton describes as the anti-conformity bias cycle, which only lends further evidence to the idea that humans seem to forever and always be on the look out for what deviates from the norm. That being said, some research suggests that admiration for nonconformity may not actually be so universal (via Psychological Studies). While it may be more prevalent amongst cultures that value individualism, this may not necessarily be the case within cultures centered around collectivism and community interdependence.

Of course, the concept of nonconformity goes well beyond sporting tattoos or a punk-rock wardrobe. It's important to acknowledge that nonconformity has historically at times been used as a form of social protest and may be one factor in how a person self-identifies.