Asch, S.E. (1955). Opinions and social pressure, Scientific American, 193, 31-35.

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"Exactly what is the effect of the opinions of others on our own," and "How strong is the urge toward social conformity"? These are the two main questions that spurred the widely-known and influential research of Solomon Asch. Based on previous research which found that people tend to change their opinions when faced with counter-arguments of authority or persuasive statistics, Asch set out to understand the power of conformity in social groups. In order to investigate how group pressure could shape opinion, Asch designed a series of experiments called "vision tests" where a subject was placed in a room with a group of confederates. During these sessions, the researcher would show the entire group one card (with a small line on it) and another card with three lines on it (small, medium, and large). The group was then asked to match the line from the first card with an identical line from the second card. During each of these tests, the confederates would change whether they gave the correct answer (e.g., small matches small) or all gave an incorrect answer (e.g., small matches large). In all of the tests employed, almost 1/3 of the subjects agreed with the confederates even when their answers were completely wrong. A number of follow up experiments were employed and showed that this tendency is prevalent when individuals are faced with pressure from three or more other people (confederates), but also that one dissenting confederate can have influence in a majority/minority group power dynamic.

This is known as a classic article because it raised important questions about the impact of majority opinion in society and its influences on others by way of the conformity effect. It also showed that consensus by way of conformity is dangerous and that individual experience and insight must never be stifled.


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