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Lost in the crowd: Conformity as escape following disbelief in free will

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European Journal of Social Psychology

Published online on


--- - |2 Abstract Belief in free will is founded on the idea that people are responsible for their behavior. People who believe in free will derive meaning in life from these beliefs. Conformity refers to succumbing to external pressures and imitating others’ behaviors. Sometimes, conformity involves a loss of self‐awareness, which reduces perceived meaninglessness. We tested if disbelief in free will increases perceived meaninglessness and if people subsequently become more conformist to address this negative existential perception. We conducted three studies to test this hypothesis. In Study 1, experimentally induced disbelief in free will resulted in perceived meaninglessness. In Study 2, perceived meaninglessness correlated with conformity. Finally, in Study 3, perceived meaninglessness mediated the relationship between disbelief in free will and conformity, especially under high self‐awareness. We conclude that perceptions about meaning play a central role in the relationship between disbelief in free will and conformity. - European Journal of Social Psychology, EarlyView.