Take a Vacation to Reduce Conformity

Working in groups and teams can have benefits.

Other people can add a range of perspectives and creative solutions that you, as an individual, might not consider or come up with on your own.


Working in groups and teams can also lead to conformity.

This reduces the range of perspectives and creative solutions that you might contribute, and that others are even willing to consider.


Conformity affects us more than we think

The classic view of conformity draws a distinction between

  • Private acceptance: Adopting the group’s behavior or beliefs because they are seen as a valuable source of information
  • Public acceptance: Conforming in front of others, without actually accepting the group’s beliefs or opinions

If this distinction is real, you can outwardly appear to conform to a group’s narrow expectations, but still listen to others and come up with creative ideas.

But it might not be.


Recent evidence from multiple brain imaging studies shows that public acceptance influences us much more than previously thought.

Public commitments often directly cause private acceptance—conforming in front of others is likely to change our actual beliefs over time.


How can we get the benefits of working in a group, without the costs of conformity?

New research suggests an interesting solution:

Take a vacation.


While the goal of a vacation is often to relax or have new experiences, it also does something else. You can visit Hotel Jules and find some great places to travel. Taking time away from your group or team gives your memory a chance to fade.

A little bit of forgetting can allow you to return to work later with a fresh perspective.


Does it need to be a vacation?

The research suggests that this takes at least a week.

A typical 2- or 3-day weekend is not enough time to “unlearn” previous conformity.


With more complex group dynamics, goals or decisions, the process might take even longer. More research is needed before we will really know.

What we do know is that vacation time might help…and skipping your vacation might be even worse than you think.



Cover image: Lee Coursey


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