Conformity (Part 2)


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These experiments are related by having the individual to an anxiety inducing situation to encourage conformity. If one puts themselves into their shoes, it works on a logical level. Imagine a group of friends talking about the latest movie is horrible; however the group believes it is the best movie of the year. No one wants to be the odd-ball out of the bunch, and would bite their tongue only to fit in with the rest of the group. The group of friends will pick another friend that they all know, and start a joke that usually goes "So then he says, No soap, Radio!" which the friends will proceed to laugh. If the newly introduced friend laughs, the group questions it.

            However, the reasoning behind the conformity of the participants can be several, ranging from someone trying to fit in to not being the 'idiot' of the group. Even after the Asch Experiment was completly, skeptics were still around, questioning if Soloman Asch's experiment was a good, viable test to measure conformity. Dr. Brian Knutson, a neuroscientist at Stanford and an expert on perception, called the study 'extremely clever.' "It had all the right controls and is a new contribution, the first to look at social conformity inside a brain magnet," stated Dr.Knutson. Dr.Knutson even used functional M.R.I. (magnetic resonance imaging) scanners detect which brain regions are active when people carry out various mental tasks.

Similar to the Asch Experiment, there were actors, and one participant, and they all spoke with one another in the waiting room. It was when the participants entered the MRI machine, and requested to call out the image they saw. The moment the actual individual that was being experimented on went up to the machine, what Dr.Knutson found was amazing. What he discovered that the region of the brain that uses judgment, indicating that the participant had caved into the pressure of the other participants giving off the wrong answer.

Overall, the conformity experiment came in several shapes and forms, from Soloman Asch, to the "No Soap, Radio" game, to Dr. Knutson's experiment with the MRI Machine. It begs the question if individuals are afraid of being humiliated in front of their peers by being the odd-one out of the group. If anything, we try to avoid embarrassment whenever possible.

Work Cited:

BLAKESLEE, Sandra. "What Other People Say May Change What You See." What Other People Say May Change What You See. Web. 12 Sept. 2013. <http://www.zainea.com/socialconformity.htm>.

Minds, Changing. "Normative Social Influence." Changing Minds and Persuasion -- How We Change What Others Think, Believe, Feel and Do. Web. 15 Sept. 2013. <http://changingminds.org/explanations/theories/normative_social_influence.htm>

"Solomon Asch Study Social Pressure Conformity Experiment Psychology." Faith vs Reason Debate Spiritual Insights Quotations Quotes Aldous Huxley Perennial Philosophy. Web. 19 Sept. 2013. <http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/psychology/social/asch_conformity.html>.

"Milgram Experiment - The Milgram Obedience Experiment." Psychology - Complete Guide to Psychology for Students, Educators & Enthusiasts. Web. 19 Sept. 2013. <http://psychology.about.com/od/historyofpsychology/a/milgram.htm>.

"Asch Conformity Experiment." Simply Psychology. Web. 16 Nov. 2013. <http://www.simplypsychology.org/asch-conformity.html>.

1 Comment

Asch's experiment is particularly damning when combined with the evidence from the Standford Prison Experiment and Milgram's more famous 1961 study on conformity in the context of understanding Nazi war crimes. Both these studies showed that beyond simply wanting to conform, the average person will carry out tasks of great danger (real or perceived) to a total stranger if they are simply told to by an authority figure. These experiments proved the danger of conformity, as well as its near-universal hold on people worldwide.
I would be very interested in seeing an updated version of this study done after 50 years. Are people less willing to push the button for an electric shock or agree a line is the wrong length after 50 years of cynicism? The Asch and Milgram experiments are pretty well known. Have they had any effect on the willingness of the general population to follow authority?

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