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Is Your Uniqueness an Illusion?


You want to be unique? Congratulations, you did it! 

In an individualism-emphasizing society, everyone wants to be unique. However, is your uniqueness a fact or just an illusion or a good feeling of yourself?

Researchers are curious about what factors can affect people’s feeling about uniqueness. They asked the subject participants to fill out a survey, in which 22 questions were from Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) and 19 questions were related with political tendency. Firstly, the participants had to judge how well they agreed with the statement in each question and then they were asked to comment on whether other participants’ judgments corresponded with theirs, meaning they needed to decide if they were unique and different from others.

The results suggests that based on the political tendencies of the subject participants, those who were liberal would estimate the similarities with other participants – in other words, they felt like they were unique. Those who were conservative or neutral politically were prone to overestimate their similarities with others.

In the second experiment, the researchers applied similar method, but instead of judging other participants’ opinions, they asked the participants to decide how well American people’s ideas conformed to theirs. In addition, they were also requested to fill out a questionnaire about their requirements to be unique. The result was similar to the findings in the first experiment. Moreover, the researchers discovered that the need for uniqueness is an intervening variable that the participants’ political attitudes can influence the judgment on similarities with others through affecting their needs for uniqueness.

Interestingly, people who believe they are liberal, may feel they are unique and elusive, however, they actually overate their uniqueness; and it is their desire to become unique, results in such a cognition of being unique.  While, those who are conservative, usually think other people have similar opinions and they don’t quite mind if they are unique mainly because they hope others can acknowledge their thoughts.

Therefore, if you often feel you are unique, you might want to ask yourself a question: does your feeling of uniqueness come from your desire to be a unique individual so you underrate your similarities with others? On the contrary, if you are a conservative guy, you may want to remind yourself frequently of being cautious not to mistakenly believe that others always agree with you.


  1. Stern, C., West, T. V., & Schmitt, P. G. (2013). The Liberal Illusion of Uniqueness. Psychological science

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