It’s the guy who plays guitar and rides a motorcycle, or the spritely minx who shows a little skin and sports that daring tattoo. It’s the musicians, artists, actors and activists. Those mavericks with the devil may cry attitude. They shake their fist at society and takeoff, blazing their own trail, and mowing down whatever stands in their way. Those rebels, loners, artists and performers, they take our breath away. They are our adolescent crushes adorning teenage rooms in posters. The stars change from one generation to the next, but the attitude is the same. Their loving eyes fall upon us and tell us, yes we are special and can go our own way too. Hand-in-hand we imagine laughing at the dullards as we take off on wild adventures together with our very own teenage crush. So if you want to be attractive, there’s an easy way. Be a rebel, also known as a nonconformist.
Of course, lots of sitcom episodes teach us that any character that isn’t true to him or herself falls flat on their face, and hilarity ensues. Don’t let that be you. But a bigger question remains. Why are we so instantly attracted to the ones who at a moment’s notice break all the rules, and grin from ear-to-ear while doing it? University of Queensland psychologist Matthew Hornsey asked himself this question. He set out to on a series of experiments to find why nonconformists exude sex appeal.
The first thing Hornsey and his team found out was that nonconformists were attractive across both genders. It’s a general misconception that men prefer conformists. A large number of women try all their lives to fit in. But they do so to their detriment, at least as far as dating goes. So how did Hornsey come about this information? He conducted a total of five studies. The first had 115 college students as participants. Here, they were asked to rank the attractiveness of 20 profiles. They had to say how attractive they themselves found the person in the profile, as well as how the opposite sex would rank them. In each profile’s statement there was tailored in a unique way either a conformist or nonconformist statement. They said things like, “She is happy to go along with what others are doing,” versus, “She enjoys time to herself rather than going along with others.” Researchers found that the majority overwhelmingly chose nonconformist profiles more attractive, no matter their sex. Hornsey and his team were doubly surprised that women tended to act conformist in the company of men, when clearly the results of their study showed that women were more attractive when they were nonconformist. Researchers wrote that this was a holdover belief from an era when, “women were expected to be submissive, modest, subdued, agreeable.” The results of Hornsey’s work was published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. To learn how to be a nonconformist read, The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World by Chris Guillebeau.