Asch in his essay “Opinions and Social Pressure” conducted an experiment to determine effects of group pressure towards an individual and concluded that there is a very strong tendency to conformity even when doing so conflicting with their own senses of morality. In the experiment a group of young students have to compare length of lines on two different sheets of paper. On one of them there is a sample single line and on the other one there are three lines only one of which is same size as the sample line from the first sheet.
People taking part in this experiment are instructed to point at lines that are the same length. At first, during the experiment the group is unanimous in their answers and chooses the correct line, but later on the person that sits near to the end of the line in which people taking part in the experiment are sited, selects different answers then the rest of the group. As the experiment continues and the situation repeats, the isolated in selecting different than the majority answers person shows signs of feeling uncomfortable in position of dissenter.
What he doesn’t know is that the rest of the group is instructed to give wrong answers while the experiment is conducted. The single individual is placed in the minority while actually giving the correct answers. Subjects of this experiment could act independently or they could go along with majority’s opinion. A prominent percentage yielded. Under the majority pressure people are more likely to accept the misleading information. There are extreme examples of totally independent individuals as well as people who totally agree with the majority almost most of the time and the tendency is highly consistent.
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After reconstructing the experiment the next question for the scientist to answer is which aspect of influence is more important, the size of majority or its unanimity. It turns out, that the majority size makes a difference only to the point where majority group involves three people. Making the majority any bigger would not influence on the error rate for the answers in the experiment. Breaking up unanimity of the group in given answers has a significant effect. In the experiment it is also noted that the rate of wrong answers depends to a considerable degree on how wrong the majority is.
Even with significant difference in length of lines there were still individuals who agree with majority error. For those participating in this experiment almost all declare that independence was preferable to conformity. “Life in society requires consensus as an indispensable conditions. But consensus, to be productive, requires that each individual contribute independently out of his experience and insight. (…) We have found that tendency to conformity in our society so strong that reasonably and well- meaning young people are willing to call white black is a matter of concern” (Salomon E.
Asch “Opinion and Social Pressure” pp. 730).
The experiment has proven that we live in times where opinion become very subjective and can be easily modified. Social techniques are wildly used in marketing and sales or even by lobbyist in governmental decision making process. The uncertainty of people own senses, opinion or knowledge can be easily abused. Asch’s experiment implements how people believe in the obvious lies. It’s shows simple ways of influencing perception, judgment and action. Results of this experiment trigger a number of social and scientifically researches like study of Berns G.S. (2005) (Neurobiological Correlates of Social Conformity and Independence During Mental Rotation, Biological Psychiatry, 58(3), pp 245-253), that explains decision making influence on very profound level. It proves that social mechanisms of authority have an effect not only on individual behavior but it also effects brain chemistry. Resources: “Opinions and Social Pressure” / by Solomon E. Asch Berns G. S. (2005) (Neurobiological Correlates of Social Conformity and Independence During Mental Rotation, Biological Psychiatry, 58(3), pp 245-253) Reaction Paragraph:
... both generations were eager to pursue the politics of tranquility. Social conformity was also being played out during the 1950s. During the ... the 1950’s was an age of political, social, and cultural conformity. As any decade does, the 1950s looked back to ... ;s deserves its reputation as an age of political, social, and cultural conformity to a great extent. Eisenhower’s actions to ...
I was very surprised by the results of Asch’s experiment. I always knew that the opinion of the group counts and it’s important to most of us, but would never except that the scale and strength of decision making influence techniques can be so large and effective. Society faces many different forms and techniques of decision making influences that were developed from results of the Asch’s experiment. This techniques share common goals which are to make society to obey and find the best ways to achieve social conformity.
On positive side, conformity can be used to create predictability references or to organize a convenient social structure that doesn’t require constant renegotiations. On the negative side, it’s a key to a great power over social behavior and actions. This raise questions over morality and responsibility over the actions that could be caused by manipulations. If the study was conducted on contemporary society the results wouldn’t be much different if not even showing stronger tendency to conformity.
Living in the age of social media, mass communication networks and globalization concepts individuals are more pressured to obey, to be a part of events or actions not truly and not only by their free will. The study indicates that in big majority people are followers and they tend to obey authority and follow the opinion of majority. Awareness of how humans tend to obey comes with some tips on how we can protect ourselves from external influence. Cultivating a healthy skepticism and exercising active change in our behavior make us less vulnerable to prospective social experiments.
... nology (heart, lungs, brain, etc. ) x The view of society as a social system looks at the functions served by various components ... we must recognize that our views and feelings are the result of paradigms we have been socialized into. x 2 benefits ... possibilities. (if we can understand reasons; we can take effective action) 3 theories can shape and direct research efforts, pointing toward ...