Comparitive Critique of Doris Lessing's article "Group Minds" and Solomon Asch's experiment.

Essay by lora27High School, 12th gradeA+, November 2005

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Social influences shape every person's practices, judgments, and beliefs. (Asch 306) In "Opinions and Social Pressure", Solomon Asch examines how individuals tend to conform to a group or majority. He does this by explaining the results of his experiment that he devised to observe to what extent conformity occurs. In her essay titled "Group Minds", Doris Lessing claims that as a society we have enough knowledge about conformity to do something about it, yet we choose not to. Although Doris Lessing and Solomon Asch both suggest that people desire independence yet yield to conformity, Asch's experiment adds specificity to Lessing's claims. Lessing speaks generally about groups and the effect they have on conformity, whereas Asch's experiment examines different types of group scenarios in order to better understand the human psyche; the idea of social conformity is farther complicated by chosen and assigned groups.

Lessing and Asch recognize that most people succumb to external pressures to conform despite the claim that they are individuals.

Lessing claims that an individual in the Western world has the mindset of "I am a citizen of a free society, and that means I am an individual, making individual choices" (Lessing 333). Lessing doesn't believe that is the case. She believes that only a small percentage of people can ever truly call themselves solitary individuals; rather, the majority of people tend to associate themselves with various groups. After viewing the results of his experiment, Asch believes that individualism exists, and that some people can rise above the pressures exerted on them. When it comes to conformity, Lessing thinks that we live our lives in groups and many of us cannot help but conform to group sentiments. She claims that we possess the knowledge about ourselves to do something about this tendency towards conformity, but we...