Is Non-Conformity WEIRD? Cultural Variation in Adults’ Beliefs About Children’s Competency and Conformity

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Abstract

Cross-cultural comparisons provide critical insight into variation in reasoning about intelligence. In two studies, the authors used a novel methodology based on multivocal ethnography to assess the role of conformity in U.S. and Ni-Vanuatu adults’ judgments of children’s intelligence and, as a comparison trait, good behavior. In Study 1, there were cultural differences in the impact of conformity on U.S. and Ni-Vanuatu adults’ judgments of children’s intelligence and good behavior. When evaluating U.S. children only, U.S. adults were less likely to endorse high conformity children as intelligent, often citing creativity as a justification for their judgments. In contrast, Ni-Vanuatu adults were more likely to endorse Ni-Vanuatu high conformity children as intelligent. Ni-Vanuatu adults were also more likely to endorse high conformity children as well-behaved than U.S. adults. In Study 2, there were no effects of socioeconomic status on U.S. adults’ evaluations of conformity. U.S. adults were less likely to endorse high conformity children as intelligent than Ni-Vanuatu adults. Taken together, the data demonstrate that beliefs about the relations between intelligence, conformity, and creativity vary within and across cultures.

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