Conformity

Humans are, social animals, and because of that, they need to feel accepted (apart from engineers). Acceptance is so important, that people will end up denying the reality just to “fit in” a specific group. Seems absurd right? In 1951, Solomon Asch performed some experiments on human behavior to study their reaction under social pressure. The experiment was pretty easy. A group of participants (lets say 10 people) were put in a room, and shown two figures like the one below here.

Which of the three right lines has the same length of the left line?

Then each participant (one at the time) had to step forward and say which of the three lines (A, B, C) is the same length of the reference line in the left. Everyone else could hear their answer. The task is pretty easy and every person would basically guess right (C in this case).
However here is the experiments. 9 of the participants were actually actors payed to “lie”, and only 1 was the real test subject.
The test subject was placed down in the row so it would have heard some other answers before he had to give his/her answer. So basically, like in school, the teacher shown everyone the two cards, and then asked one by one which they thought was the correct answer. They were not told if the answer they chose was correct or not.

The first couple of rounds (they changed the pictures after each round), everyone guessed correctly, including the test subject. This was necessary to make the subject gain trust to the group and make him/her feel aligned with them. However, on the third picture round, the actors started to “lie”. One at the time they started to give the wrong answer (eg, B.). The test subjects instead of giving the obvious correct answer, conformed to the wrong answer too!
I will try to explain this with a practical example: let’s suppose the test subject was in position 8, Asch shown the new set of pictures, and asked to the subjects: “what is the matching line in length?” The Actor 1 answered B, Actor 2, answered B.. and so on until Actor 7 Answered B. Because the test subject now heard 7 different people answering B, in order to fit within the group, he/she started to answer also B instead of answering C.

Ok so the subject lie in order to fit.. is that all? Actually not.. there is more.

Another set up of the conformity experiment, consists on getting a group of people (again eg. 9 actors and 1 test subject). One of the actor told a really unfunny joke, something that makes no sense at all. All the group started to laughs at the joke, and so did the test subject. When interviewed alone and told him/her that the others were actor and there was no funny joke, they responded that they thought the joke was actually funny. In reality what happened is that they went thought a process called “Cognitive Dissonance” where the subject try to justify their actions with denial and made up justification.

So not only humans have the tendency to ignore reality , but they also come up with completely made up justification for their actions.

But there is more… The Nocebo effect.

Some of you may be familiar with the Placebo effect, where you give basically a fake pill (eg sugar pill) to a subject and tell him that that pill with help them to sleep, relax, etc (you chose). The subjects in this case will believe in it and actually get convinced that the pills has the promised effect and state that after getting the pills they find themselves for example more relaxed, even if in reality they only got a sugar pill.  

So the Nocebo effect works similarly but for negative effects. It works like this: Take 10 subject (eg. 9 actors and 1 participant) and tell them that you are testing out a new relaxation drug (in reality just water) and this drug could give some side-effect such as hearing whistle noises, or dizziness.  Then, after few minutes, mostly of the actors will start to claim/act like they are experiencing side effects and guess what? Also the test subject will develop the same expected side effects! Crazy right? When interviewed afterward and told the truth, all of them claimed that they actually physically experienced those side effects, again denying the truth. 

And you? Do you conform? Are your idea really yours or you get convinced by the social media, news, etc?
Have you ever laugh just because the other were laughing? Have you ever look in some direction just because all the others around you were looking too? If yes, then you are welcome to the group.

 

 

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