Sex differences in confidence influence patterns of conformity

Catharine P. Cross, Gillian R. Brown, Thomas J.H. Morgan, Kevin N. Laland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Lack of confidence in one's own ability can increase the likelihood of relying on social information. Sex differences in confidence have been extensively investigated in cognitive tasks, but implications for conformity have not been directly tested. Here, we tested the hypothesis that, in a task that shows sex differences in confidence, an indirect effect of sex on social information use will also be evident. Participants (N = 168) were administered a mental rotation (MR) task or a letter transformation (LT) task. After providing an answer, participants reported their confidence before seeing the responses of demonstrators and being allowed to change their initial answer. In the MR, but not the LT, task, women showed lower levels of confidence than men, and confidence mediated an indirect effect of sex on the likelihood of switching answers. These results provide novel, experimental evidence that confidence is a general explanatory mechanism underpinning susceptibility to social influences. Our results have implications for the interpretation of the wider literature on sex differences in conformity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)655-667
Number of pages13
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • gender
  • gender stereotype
  • letter transformation
  • mental rotation
  • social learning
  • stereotype threat

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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