Psychology/Sociology

The Asch Conformity Experiment: The Power of Herd Psychology

I’m sure many of us have had to conform to the majority in some situations in our social circle, keeping our own wishes and thoughts in the background. This can be interpreted as small sacrifices made in order to adapt; It can also be seen as lying in order to not be judged or excluded by the environment. In fact, sometimes we question our own opinions and behavior because everyone else thinks the same way except us. We can compare this situation to a question that your friends discussed at the exit of an exam, where everyone but you gives the same answer and you start to doubt the answer to the question even though you have done it confidently.

Asch Conformity Experiment The Power of Herd Psychology 1

Today, we will take a look at the Asch Social Adaptation Experiment, which shows us how much a person depends on other people when it comes to harmony! You know, when a number of people form a line in front of the restroom, you think that they are all full and you go directly to that line, we will talk about such a situation. In this experiment, the American social psychologist Solomon Asch creates a mise en scene. In this scenario, a group of people is brought together for review. Suppose there are 10 people in the group, all of whom are said to be subjects, but in reality 9 out of 10 are our pre-selected players. So only one person actually participated in the experiment. Of course, this person thinks he belongs to a mini-clan of 10 people made up of subjects like himself. In this case, the poor subject is unaware of the game to be played against him. This is where the experiment begins.

Height Estimate

Social psychologist Asch shows the entire class two sheets of paper. There is only one line on the first sheet of paper. On the second piece of paper, there are three lines named A, B, and C. Out of these three lines, line C is clearly the same as the line on the first paper, while A and B are visibly shorter or longer than it. Our scientist asks the experiment team which line is similar to the one on the first paper and then lists the choices one by one. Players who have previously agreed with each other, in order not to attract attention in the first run, say line C, which is the correct answer. In this case, the main subject also logically says line C, which is the correct answer. The second time, the first paper is replaced with another line, and the same process is repeated. The players again say the logical and correct answer. In this way, the outsider does not suspect the players in any way and believes that they are just as logical as he is.

The Asch Conformity Experiment The Power of Herd Psychology

In the third step, this line of reasoning is deeply distorted. Although the line shown matches another line this time, our players give a completely different answer out loud. In this case, our subject initially gives the correct answer by standing behind his or her logical answer. After receiving all the answers, the research psychologist does not make any comments on their accuracy so our subject is more confused. Now, let’s leave aside the case where the subject kept supporting his/her first answer with determination. The real question here is what would you do? How far would the majority seem like nonsense? At one point would you say Am I wrong?” Or would you stubbornly hold on to what you thought was right?

Results

According to the results of the experiment, three out of every four people who participated in the study gave an answer that was in agreement with the majority at least once, and only one out of four people stood by what they saw. 5% of the participants consistently followed the majority. To keep this article short, we cannot talk about the details of the experiment. If you wish, you can reach the more comprehensive results of the experiment from the sources in the “References and Further Reading” section.

The Value That Keeps Us Alive: The Power to Adapt (Adaptation)

So, what does this experiment tell us? Let’s continue with the analysis of our experience. This experiment is a quantitative experiment. That is, the participants see lines in front of them that they can analyze clearly. Despite this, the participants often set aside their own views and followed the majority. The apparent reason for this is a value that keeps us alive: our ability to adapt.

Chameleon The Asch Conformity Experiment The Power of Herd Psychology

We instinctively tend to adapt, just as chameleons increase their chances of survival by changing their color according to the color of the environment. This manifests itself in many places, from adjusting your body to the temperature of the geography you live in, to adapting yourself to the culture of the country you are visiting. It is a biological ability that keeps us alive, even if negative phrases such as assimilation criticize this ability. Of course, in some cases, we must not compromise the values ​​that make us who we are or our own truths, but as a social being, it is inevitable to adapt to our environment.

In summary, the “Asch Social Cohesion Experiment” is vital in that it shows that people can give up their ideas by following the majority’s opinion and are afraid of being alone. This experiment has been a source of inspiration for many researchers in social psychology, particularly group dynamics and social cohesion.

References and Further Readings

S. Dunn. (2008). Research Methods For Social Psychology. ISBN: 1405149809. Yayınevi: Wiley-Blackwell Mcleod, S. (n.d.). Solomon Asch – Conformity experiment.

Asch Conformity Experiment – Simply Psychology. Retrieved January 2, 2023, from https://www.simplypsychology.org/asch-conformity.html

E. Asch. (2019). Effects Of Group Pressure Upon The Modification And Distortion Of Judgments.

(2019, June 8). Solomon Asch’s study on conformity explained. YouTube. Retrieved January 2, 2023, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVE38XM2puY

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Tufan Özdemir

Hello there! I'm Tufan Özdemir. I am a philosophy student at METU. Philosophy has been a big part of my life and my life. For this reason, most of my articles on this site are on philosophy.

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