The Asch experiment

The conformity experiment was a series of laboratory research directed by Solomon Asch in 1950 that demonstrated that an individual’s opinion is influenced by the majority, even though he is aware that they might be wrong.

His experiment was based on gender, age and occupation. In the first phase, male college students were given two pair of cards. The one in the left has the reference line and the other shows the three comparison lines. The participants were all actors except from one, that didn’t know what is happening. When asked which of the lines from the second card is equal to the reference line, all participants responded line B. The “real” participant answered C, which is the correct answer. Since he was the only one that had a different answer, the other participants looked strangely at him.

On the other set of questions, again all participants gave the wrong answer. The real student this time changed his mind once he faced the looks of the other participants. He felt excluded from the group, seen as an outsider and ashamed of his choice even though he knew his answer was correct. In order to avoid this kind of situation he conformed with the majority’s answer.

The result of this experiment is to demonstrate the influence of majority. I would say they were just too afraid to stick for themselves and to face rejection. An independent person would never be ashamed of his opinion just to please everyone else. Some of the participants experienced what is called “distortion of perception”. That means they were so confused about the wrong answer that at some point they believed the wrong answer is the correct one, just because everyone else said so.

Even though this experiment over 60 years old, its principles still apply today. Even though you might be wrong, stick with your answer. You have nothing to lose just to gain experience. Next time you will know you are right and don’t back down!

Ioana Faur

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