## Sunday, July 25, 2021

### Are You a Conformist? Y Combinator's Paul Graham On The Four Quadrants of Conformism

From Mr. Graham's personal website:

July 2020

One of the most revealing ways to classify people is by the degree and aggressiveness of their conformism. Imagine a Cartesian coordinate system whose horizontal axis runs from conventional-minded on the left to independent-minded on the right, and whose vertical axis runs from passive at the bottom to aggressive at the top. The resulting four quadrants define four types of people. Starting in the upper left and going counter-clockwise: aggressively conventional-minded, passively conventional-minded, passively independent-minded, and aggressively independent-minded.

I think that you'll find all four types in most societies, and that which quadrant people fall into depends more on their own personality than the beliefs prevalent in their society. [1]

Young children offer some of the best evidence for both points. Anyone who's been to primary school has seen the four types, and the fact that school rules are so arbitrary is strong evidence that the quadrant people fall into depends more on them than the rules.

The kids in the upper left quadrant, the aggressively conventional-minded ones, are the tattletales. They believe not only that rules must be obeyed, but that those who disobey them must be punished.

The kids in the lower left quadrant, the passively conventional-minded, are the sheep. They're careful to obey the rules, but when other kids break them, their impulse is to worry that those kids will be punished, not to ensure that they will.

The kids in the lower right quadrant, the passively independent-minded, are the dreamy ones. They don't care much about rules and probably aren't 100% sure what the rules even are.

And the kids in the upper right quadrant, the aggressively independent-minded, are the naughty ones. When they see a rule, their first impulse is to question it. Merely being told what to do makes them inclined to do the opposite.

When measuring conformism, of course, you have to say with respect to what, and this changes as kids get older. For younger kids it's the rules set by adults. But as kids get older, the source of rules becomes their peers. So a pack of teenagers who all flout school rules in the same way are not independent-minded; rather the opposite.

In adulthood we can recognize the four types by their distinctive calls, much as you could recognize four species of birds. The call of the aggressively conventional-minded is "Crush <outgroup>!" (It's rather alarming to see an exclamation point after a variable, but that's the whole problem with the aggressively conventional-minded.) The call of the passively conventional-minded is "What will the neighbors think?" The call of the passively independent-minded is "To each his own." And the call of the aggressively independent-minded is "Eppur si muove."

The four types are not equally common. There are more passive people than aggressive ones, and far more conventional-minded people than independent-minded ones. So the passively conventional-minded are the largest group, and the aggressively independent-minded the smallest....

....MUCH MORE