Social Influence: Conforming in Groups (Asch experiments)
The Asch conformity experiments were a series of studies that starkly demonstrated
the power of conformity in groups.
Experimenters led by Solomon Asch asked students to participate
in a "vision test." In reality, all but one of the partipants were
shills of the experimenter, and the study was really about how the remaining
student would react to the confederates' behavior.
The participants -- the real subjects and the confederates
-- were all seated in a classroom where they were told to announce their judgment
of the length of several lines drawn on a series of displays. They were asked
which line was longer than the other, which were the same length, etc. The confederates
had been prearranged to all give an incorrect answer to the tests.
Many subjects showed extreme discomfort, but most conformed
to the majority view of the others in the room, even when the majority said
that two lines different in length by several inches were the same length. Control
subjects with no exposure to a majority view had no trouble giving the correct
One difference between the Asch conformity experiments
and the (also famous in social psychology) Milgram experiment noted by Milgram
is that subjects in these studies attributed themselves and their own poor eyesight
and judgment while those in the Milgram experiment blamed the experimenter in
explaining their behavior. Conformity may be much less salient than authority
The Asch experiments may provide some vivid empirical evidence
relevant to some of the ideas raised in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.
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