Annual conference of TG on Ethics, Values & Planning

Breaking through ‘conformorality’ in urban and regional studies (21 & 22 September 2023, Dortmund)


The conference takes its inspiration from The Grievance Studies Affair (2017/2018), a controversial experiment in which three researchers, using pseudonyms, published bizarre articles without scientific evidence but conforming to conventional, broadly accepted moral views. The team demonstrated that it is easier to get published in peer-reviewed scientific journals if one’s articles adhere to (and reinforce) certain mainstream viewpoints. The project’s findings exemplify what, in the literature, is referred to as conformorality (Lisciandra et al., 2013). This concept expresses the tendency of groups and communities to acritically rely on consensus viewpoints, judgements and values. Even in academic debates, it is increasingly common to be accused of being 'naive', 'insensitive' or 'part of the problem' if one demonstrates scepticism towards certain ideas or issues.

Conformorality raises particular concerns in science as it can severely compromise and hinder the development of constructive perspectives. While one can interpret conformorality as useful, even if only for purely functional reasons (such as not reinventing the wheel), it is crucial to recognise that an excess of conformorality can reduce fair confrontation and obstruct innovative ideas and solutions. Planning theory, urban studies and human geography are not exempt from this risk, and debates on circular economy, commons, commodification, densification, touristification, segregation, gentrification, digitalisation, informality, inequality, participation, neoliberalism, post-colonialism, peripheries-peripherality, post-growth, privatisation, sustainability, social justice and the just city—to name only a few—are all susceptible to conformorality.

In this context, the conference welcomes contributions that critically discuss conformorality in urban studies and invites scholars to investigate this issue from their own perspectives and experiences.
• To what extent does conformorality affect your research?
• Why does the community align on certain values?
• To what extent is conformorality a problem (or an opportunity)?
• What other ideas/views does conformorality hinder? How can we overcome it?




Deadline for abstract submissions

Authors are invited to submit an abstract of a maximum of 250 words by 15 May 2023 using a Google Form. Authors will be notified of decisions on their abstracts by the end of May 2023.

Themed special issue 

Authors of certain selected abstracts will be offered the chance to contribute to a themed special issue of a peer-reviewed journal. The organisers will provide further information at that time.


ILS – Research Institute for Regional and Urban Development (Dortmund)



Stefano Cozzolino and Anita De Franco


Inspirational references

Alshaalan, H., & Gummerum, M. (2022). Conformity on moral, social conventional and decency issues in the United Kingdom and Kuwait. International Journal of Psychology, 57(2), 261–270.
Chituc, V., & Sinnott-Armstrong, W. (2020). Moral conformity and its philosophical lessons. Philosophical Psychology, 33(2), 262–282.
Cialdini, R. B., & Goldstein, N. J. (2004). Social influence: Compliance and conformity. Annual Review of Psychology, 55, 591–621.
Farrow, K., Grolleau, G., & Ibanez, L. (2017). Social norms and pro-environmental behavior: A review of the evidence. Ecological Economics, 140, 1–13.
Kelly, D. (2011). Yuck! The nature and moral significance of disgust. Cambridge (MA): The MIT Press.
Kelly, M., Ngo, L., Chituc, V., Huettel, S., & Sinnott-Armstrong, W. (2017). Moral conformity in online interactions: Rational justifications increase influence of peer opinions on moral judgments. Social Influence, 12(2–3), 57–68.
Kirchherr, J. (2022). Bullshit in the sustainability and transitions literature: A provocation. Circular Economy and Sustainability, 1–6.
Lisciandra, C., Postma-Nilsenová, M., & Colombo, M. (2013). Conformorality. A study on group conditioning of normative judgment. Review of Philosophy and Psychology, 4, 751–764.
Pluckrose, H., & Lindsay, J.A. (2020). Cynical theories. Pitchstone Publishing.
Roberts, S. O., Ho, A. K., & Gelman, S. A. (2019). The role of group norms in evaluating uncommon and negative behaviors. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 148(2), 374–387.
Roughley, N. (2018). From shared intentionality to moral obligation? Some worries. Philosophical Psychology, 31(5), 736–754.
Roughley, N., & Bayertz, K. (Eds.) (2019). The normative animal? On the anthropological significance of social, moral, and linguistic norms. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Schmidt, T. (2016). Accounting for moral conflicts. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 19, 9–19.
Szigeti, A. (2015). Sentimentalism and moral dilemmas. Dialectica, 69(1), 1–22.
Turiel, E. (2002). The culture of morality: Social development, context, and conflict. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.