This is a blog post about Asch’s study, its results and the importance of dissent. In his studies, conformity decreased when participants were encouraged to voice their opinions.

This implies that dissenting views are necessary for healthy discussion.

Asch’s study was designed to investigate the extent of conformity in a group. It found that people are swayed by others, and this behavior persisted even when they knew it would be disadvantageous for them. The experiment involved two lines on a card which were identical except for length (Fig. 27). Participants looked at one line from each pair and indicated which one appeared longer to them while being told either “the other person thinks that is shorter than you think” or “the other person thinks that’s as long as you think.” In reality both lines had been made equal but participants conformed to what they believed was correct because they thought it might seem like there was disagreement if their answer differed from those around them; hence, a group of people in the original experiment were convinced that a shorter line was actually longer than they had originally thought.

Figure 27: The two lines on each card are identical, but participants will conform to what they believe is correct rather than give their own answer if it differs from those around them.

The study found that this behavior persisted even when individuals knew it would be disadvantageous for them (as we might think about how dissenting opinions influence decision making). Participants became more likely to dissent and have their opinion heard as time increased, which suggests an environment where dissent can flourish (Fig. 28). It also showed some interesting effects on conformity at different levels of hierarchical distance among members: both high-status and low status individuals tended to resist conforming to the opinions of those with a higher status.

Fig. 28: Asch’s study shows that people will conform even when they know it is disadvantageous for them, but dissenters are more likely to share their opinion as time increases

In [Asch’s] experiment conformity decreased when participants were given information at different hierarchical levels and were in groups of three or four individuals (Figure 29). The two lines on each card are identical, but participants will conform to what they believe is correct rather than give their own answer if it differs from those around them. This behavior persisted even when individuals knew it would be disadvantageous for them (as we might think about how dissenting opinions influence decision making). Participants became more convinced of their own wrong answer than the correct one, and when they were in groups with three or four people, conformity decreased.

Figures 29: Participants will conform to what they believe is correct rather than give their own answer if it differs from those around them. The two lines on each card are identical but participants gave different answers based on the group’s majority opinion instead of giving a dissenting opinion

The other noteworthy finding was that dissenters are more likely to share their opinions as time increases; whereas conforming individuals decrease dissent after receiving feedback (Figure 30). Asch found that subjects did not want others to think they had made an error so began offering consensus even before being told about the accuracy of responses–this shows how important it is for people to be able to voice their opinions.

The importance of dissenting voices cannot be overstated–it’s possible that a minority opinion can lead the majority in making better decisions. When it comes down to it, dissent contributes significantly towards maintaining an open and free society because only through disagreement are we able to come up with new ideas while remaining at odds until someone finds the best solution (Figure 31). A lot of what would have been considered “obvious” has now become debatable which allows more creativity when solving problems. Nevertheless, there is no need for disagreements within systems as long as they don’t infringe on other people’s rights or cause harm; so debate should always happen peacefully and without aggression since it brings out the best in people.

Figure 31: Dissent is Key: Why Asch’s Studies Show the Importance of Saying What Might Seem Obvious | By Vince Thurkettle, PhD – Stony Brook University (2018)

The Effect of Group Size on Conformity

In Asch’s study, conformity decreased when the group size increased. When two confederates were added to a room with seven participants, only one gave in for every three trials (Figure 30). This was also the case after adding five more people into the mix: Two out of six individuals conformed at each trial. When there are less than ten members in a group, it appears as though they can be swayed by an individual or just give up trying to come up with their own answer altogether; however, once that number reaches sixteen and higher conformity is much rarer. It’s likely because many groups this large have multiple strong personalities who don’t agree and thus make it difficult to go along with the group.

Note: In the third paragraph, “Figure 30” should be replaced with a link to Figure 31.

In Asch’s study, conformity decreased when the group size increased. When two confederates were added to a room with seven participants, only one gave in for every three trials (Figure 30). This was also the case after adding five more people into the mix: Two out of six individuals conformed at each trial. When there are less than ten members in a group, it appears as though they can be swayed by an individual or just give up trying to come up with their own answer altogether; however that number reaches sixteen and higher conformity is much rarer. It’s likely because many groups this large are made up of people from different backgrounds and age groups, each with their own set of opinions.

Figure 30: Asch conformity study results – two confederates added to the room (image)

When two confederates were added to a room with seven participants, only one gave in for every three trials.

This was also the case after adding five more people into the mix: Two out of six individuals conformed at each trial. When there are less than ten members in a group, it appears as though they can be swayed by an individual or just give up trying to come up with their own answer altogether; however that number reaches sixteen and higher conformity is much rarer. It’s likely because many groups this large already have established opinions, and because there is a greater risk of isolation when they are outnumbered.

This study also found that people who were more confident in their answers showed less conformity than those with lower self-esteem. This could be due to the fact that individuals without high levels of confidence may feel like giving in will make them seem smarter or more knowledgeable about the conformist’s opinion. It might also point to an underlying desire for societal acceptance – I want others to believe what I do so I’ll go along with it even if my gut tells me otherwise .

It seems as though this phenomenon can occur during any type of interaction where one person has power over another; however, Asch did not conduct his research on anything other

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here