Social Networks, Self Denial, and Median Preferences: Conformity as an Evolutionary Strategy

27 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2004

See all articles by Jonathan Klick

Jonathan Klick

University of Pennsylvania Law School; Erasmus School of Law; PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

Francesco Parisi

University of Minnesota - Law School; University of Bologna


In this article, we suggest that human attitudes of conformity can be understood as a product of adaptation. While existing models of conformity invoke preference falsification in which individuals hide their true preferences, we posit an adaptive mechanism for conformity. Specifically, because non-conformity leads to costs as a dissenting individual is shut out of social networks and majority coalitions in the collective choice context, individuals have an incentive to sublimate their original preferences to a meta-preference for conformity. However, this adaptation is not costless. Resisting original preferences imposes self-denial costs on an individual that may exceed the benefits of conforming. Further, a conforming individual foregoes the small probability that his first-best original preferences will be realized. Thus, this preference modification model of conformity predicts that individuals with high self-denial costs and lower levels of risk aversion will be less likely to conform.

Keywords: Conformism, Endogenous Preferences, Social Networks, Preference Falsification

JEL Classification: K10, D70

Suggested Citation

Klick, Jonathan and Parisi, Francesco, Social Networks, Self Denial, and Median Preferences: Conformity as an Evolutionary Strategy. Journal of Socio-Economics, Forthcoming, FSU College of Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 126, FSU College of Law, Law and Economics Paper No. 05-01, George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 04-41, Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-15, Available at SSRN: or

Jonathan Klick (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

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Erasmus School of Law ( email )

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PERC - Property and Environment Research Center

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Francesco Parisi

University of Minnesota - Law School ( email )

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Minneapolis, MN 55455
United States

University of Bologna ( email )

Piazza Scaravilli 1
40126 Bologna, fc 47100

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