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Opinions and Social Pressure Response Essay

Summary: In the article, “Opinions and Social Pressure” by Solomon E. Asch, he states that social pressure from a majority group could influence a person to conform. Asch and his research team wanted to find out how and how much social forces constrain people’s opinions and attitudes. The researchers also wanted to find out whether or not, when confronted with an incorrect answer, individuals would conform to the group or have his own answer.

The experiment starts with seven to nine young men seated in a room. The young group of men have been told before the experiment to all agree on the correct answer and continue to say the correct answer, except one person. The last individual has no idea that the others were told to state the incorrect answers the entire time. There are two cards placed in front of the members that consist of four lines, all of different lengths. The card on the left is the line you are comparing the other three lines to on the card on the right. The members would answer which two lines are identical in order from who sat down first to who sat down last. All of the young men continue to give the correct answer. On this set of trials only 1% of the time the subject would disagree with the majority. To see if the minority would continue to conform, Asch conducted a second trial. During this trial, all of the participants, except one, stated the wrong answer. When the last person answered, the subject quickly changes his answer to the wrong answer.

On this set of trials, 36.8% of the time the minority agreed with the incorrect answer. On the third trial, Asch decided to add more people to the minority. As the contestants gave their answers, those in the majority were allowed to give any answer they wanted. These results showed that 13.6% accepted the wrong answer compared to the second experiment. This sudden drop indicates with only one person in the minority, he was more likely to conform. When there were more in the minority, participants were more likely to answer how they would and not feel pressured. In the last experiment, the member in the minority was allowed to be seated next to someone he knew personally. During this set of trials, the member in the minority ended up answering almost invariably independent. Out of all of the trials, Asch concluded that people will conform for two reasons: they want to fit in with the others and because they believe the group is better informed (on an intelligence level) than they are.

Response: While there have been many psychological tests similar to this, this experiment lacks certain criteria that I believe would change the outlook of this experiment. Since this experiment was done in the 1950s, which was a time in which it was the norm to conform, this could not address to young men now based on how time has changed along with norms. Secondly, since this was done in America, this could not fully take effect in other countries because not all countries conform like we do, so the statistical evidence would vary immensely. Besides the negative, two studies have brought some more insight to this experiment that have shed light as to how time changes Asch’s results.

In a conformity experiment by Richard Crutchfield, his studies found participants with high intelligence scores and leadership abilities to show less conformity than others-which is something Asch did not address. Secondly, in 1980, psychologists Perrin & Spencer replicated Asch’s study and found only one conforming response in 396 trials. They said “cultural changes over the last fifty years had led to a reduction in conformity” (McLeod). Based on all the evidence, I do believe that under certain circumstances we do conform, but not a majority of the time due to how we are raised, norms, cultural changes, and other aspects that could change how we view things.

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