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Humans and uniqueness

Posted on 24. April, 2015.

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A defining force in the shaping of human identity is a person’s need to feel special and different from others. Psychologists term this motivation Need for Uniqueness (NfU). 

Humans are “social animals”. They feel connected to their friends, families and nations. Belongingness has been essential for an individual’s survival at any time in the development of the human species. Accordingly, to feel socially connected is a strong
and ubiquitous need. As humans strive to feel part of a group they often adapt their behaviour in order to fit in and avoid sticking out. In fact, there is a long research tradition that provides ample support for the notion that humans conform to others in order to be accepted and liked.
However, humans do not only strive for belongingness, they also want to feel special and distinct from others. This motive is called Need for Uniqueness (NfU).The term describes the human desire to feel different from others (“a positive striving
for differentness relative to other people”). 

There are manifold ways to establish feelings of uniqueness, e.g., by showing unusual consumption behaviour or by not conforming to majority views. The NfU can be seen as a stable personality trait, that is, individuals differ in their dispositional need to feel unique. The NfU is also influenced by situational factors and social environments. The cultural context is one important social setting shaping the NfU. This article aims to illuminate the NfU from a social psychological perspective.

Read the full article in  Science Progress, Volume 98, Number 1, March 2015, pp. 1-11.

Authors: Birga Mareen Schumpe, Hans-Peter Erb

Keywords: Need for Uniqueness, humans, psychology, personality, motivation


Birga MBirga Mareen Schumpe and Hans-Peter Erb are psychologists conducting research in the Department of Social Psychology at the Helmut-SchmidtUniversity in Hamburg, Germany. Currently, they are developing a scale to assess the Need for Uniqueness (NfU) in German-speaking populations.
 This research was supported in part by a grant from the German Science Foundation (DFG) to the second author (ER 257/3-2).