Opinions and social pressure

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In "Opinions and Social Pressure," Asch describes an to find out the effects of group pressure. First, Asch and his colleagues collect a group of seven to nine young men, all college students, and assembles them in a classroom. The experimenter then explains to them that they will be visually comparing the lengths of three lines. He then shows the group two cards, one with a single vertical line, and the other with three vertical lines on it. The length of the three lines differ from three-quarters of an inch too an inch and three quarters; there is one that is the same as the other card. The young men are to choose the lines that match each other from the two different cards. Then the young men state their answers in the order they have been placed in the room. This then happens another seventeen times for a total of eighteen times that the group must choose.

The first two rounds go by with everyone agreeing, then on the third trial, the subject near the end of the group disagrees with the rest of the class. On the following trial, he disagrees again. Asch and his colleagues describe the person as becoming more worried and hesitant as the experiment continues, and he may do things like pause before he speaks or speak in a low voice..... According to the author (338). The subject does not know that the rest of the group has been instructed by the experimenters to purposely give the wrong answer six out of the eighteen times.

Asch and his colleagues placed a total of one hundred and twenty three college males in the experimental situation. Under ordinary circumstances, Asch had found that a wrong answer is given less then one percent of the time. Under these circumstances however, 36.8 percent chose the wrong answer...... According to the author (339).

Then Asch decided to modify his experiment, he increased the size of the group from two to sixteen people. Asch found that when the subject was up against only one person, they gave their own interpretation nearly all the time, whereas when increased to three participants, the subject folded and went with the group 13.6 percent of the time, and with four individuals, 31.8 percent of the time...... According to the author (340). After four, the results pretty much plateaued, so Asch concluded that the size is only important up to a point. Asch then matched up the minority individual with another minority individual, to see if having two against the rest of the group instead of just one made a difference. It did; the error percentage dropped down to only 9 percent...... According to the author (341). Asch then tried one more variation on his experiment, he gave the subject a partner, and then taking him away about six trials into the experiment, exclaiming that the subject's partner had an appointment with the dean. In these cases, the percentage of errors drastically rose when the subject didn't have a partner.