Would You Go Along With the Majority Opinion, Or Would You "Stick To Your Guns" And Trust Your Own Instinct?

Essay by dimsy November 2002

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There is something about a crowd that leads to a sense of anonymity or even depersonalization: You lose your sense of individuality and let the mob carry you away. If you look at how similarly we dress and fix our hair, you'd have to say we are almost all conformists. In the article "Opinions and Social Pressure." social psychologist Solomon E. Asch conducted groundbreaking studies on independence and conformity under group pressure which deals with the role of social pressure, in contrast to independent, individual thought and action, influencing not only attitudes and beliefs, but perceptions. This technique allowed an examination of the social construction of reality, and gave rise to decades of research on conformity. (336-342)

Asch states that when people don't trust their own judgments, they look to others for evidence of how to choose correctly. This self-doubt may occur when a situation is ambiguous, as it was in a classic series of experiments.

Asch experiments a group of students who were shown a pair of white cards and their task was to decide which of the lines on the right card was the same length as the one on the left card. Only one student in the group was a real subject. The task was repeated several times with different cards. In some cases, those collaborating in the experiment were to give correct answers, while in other cases; the collaborators were all to give a certain predetermined incorrect answer. The aim was to determine how the subject would react to group pressure inherent in a situation where he's placed into a dilemma, should he trust his own's senses or should he go along with the majority. Among 123 subjects, the subjects went along with the majority in 36.8 percent of the selections. Some of the subjects...