A new research provides a direct comparison between apes and humans, where humans are likelier to do away with their own preferences just to fit in with their peers.
Lead researcher Daniel Haun of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and the University of Jena said that conformity is a very basic feature of human sociality as it retains in- and out-groups, helps groups coordinate and stabilizes cultural diversity, one of the hallmark characteristics of the human species.
Haun explains that this does not mean that conforming, which can be good or bad, helpful or unhelpful, appropriate or inappropriate both for individuals and the groups they live in, is the right thing to do under all circumstances conformity, but the fact is that humans conform often and that human sociality would look very differently without it.
Haun added that the research shows that children as young as 2 years of age conform to others, while chimpanzees and orangutans instead prefer to stick with what they know.
Haun said that they were surprised that children as young as 2 years of age would already change their behavior just to avoid the relative disadvantage of being different.
The researchers are currently investigating whether environmental factors, such as institutionalized schooling and different child-rearing practices, impact children's tendency to conform.
The study is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.