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17 Examples of Nonconformity

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Nonconformity is a violation of the norms, expectations or sensibilities of a culture or situation. The following are illustrative examples.


Refusing to say what you are expected to say because that's not what you really think, feel or believe.

Intellectual Bravery

The pursuit of a high intellectual or professional standard whereby you must transcend group expectations such as conformance to groupthink. For example, a reporter who suggests an unpopular idea in the interests of objectivity.

Creative Expression

A need to express that which is original and valuable to you regardless of group expectations. For example, an artist whose expression isn't constrained by social expectations.

Purpose & Direction

It is common for people who are trying to get things done in life to be impatient with social processes that may represent mediocrity, group harmony and groupthink. For example, an unusually talented and productive engineer who views endless team and project meetings as a waste of time such that they simply don't attend.

Passive Negativism

A tendency to shoot down the ideas of others for no good reason. This may often violate norms such as a norm of constructive criticism or trying to build rapport with others.

Active Negativism

A tendency not to do what is expected for no good reason. For example, a student who delights in getting in trouble without being able to explain why.


Defeatism is a situation where an individual doesn't believe in the strategy and goals of their role so they intentionally sabotage things or deliberately offer low performance.

Rebel Without a Cause

A tendency to rebel against norms and authority without directing this into something positive such as a productive state of individualism.


The ability to successfully stand as an individual whereby you only conform to things that make sense to you. Individualism implies some level of success at standing alone and typically requires some level of pragmatism. In fact, individualism is not inconsistent with conformance to norms where you see them as reasonable or you conform for some pragmatic reason.


It is perhaps normal and healthy for young people to experiment with nonconformity as a means to assert themselves, rebel and experiment with independent thinking and action. Done right, this may produce valuable experience and learning as compared to a peer who always conforms to the expectations of others.

Acting Out

Using violation of a norm to express an emotional state. For example, being impolite to a customer who angers you.

Attention Seeking

Violating norms in order to seek attention from others.


Conforming to a norm signals that you are a member of a group. Nonconforming can be used as countersignaling that may be used to communicate traits such as intelligence, coolness, independence or bravery. For example, a student who communicates coolness by not singing their school's song despite everyone else joining in.

Unintentional / Involuntary Nonconformity

In many cases, people are trying to fit into a norm but simply make a mistake. For example, accidentally saying something inappropriate. The ability to conform to norms when you intend to conform is a talent and skill that can be refined with experience and effort.

Unaware Nonconformity

You may not be familiar with a particular norm such that you violate it without knowing. This often occurs if you are immersed in a culture or situation with which you are somewhat unfamiliar.


Anomie is a sense of disconnection and isolation from the societies, cultures, groups and institutions to which you belong. This is associated with a sense that culture is deeply flawed and dark such that you want no part of it. Anomie has negative connotations as a sort of lost social state.


A general hostility to the entire idea of norms, systems and culture such that you do not conform as a means of protest. In this case, your argument isn't with the norm itself but the entire idea that people should align their behavior in order to try to get along.
Overview: Nonconformity
A violation of the norms, expectations or sensibilities of a culture or situation.
Related Concepts
Next: Pragmatism


This is the complete list of articles we have written about conformity.
Collective Behavior
Social Expectations
Social Relationship
Super Culture
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