Hello everyone! Happy Easter; Happy Passover; and if you don’t celebrate either of those, Happy super-gorgeous-day-in-chicago 🙂 If you’re in town, I hope you had a chance to sit or walk outside today to soak in some sunshine. At the very least, it gives us hope that summer is on its way. I was able to get a tiny tan at I|O Urban Roofscape over Easter brunch today.
Anyhow, today is about the “Brain” and not the “Wind” because I want to share with you a classic psych experiment on Comformity.
Lets start with an easy question to test your vision: Which line (A, B, or C) on the right matches the length of the line on the left?
It’s not a trick question nor is it an April Fools joke. The answer is A.
Got it, yes? Super easy task.
However, psychologists were able to make participants say that line B or C matches with the left line. They were able to get the participants to say the wrong answer just by making one simple change. They had 5 to 9 other people answering the question incorrectly.
In the room, there was 1 real participant and the rest are confederates (in psych, confederates are people who act as fake participants and actually work for the lab). The confederates were instructed to give the incorrect answer 12 out of 18 times. One by one, participants announced their answer to the researcher. Would you have conformed?
On average, 32% of people conformed to the clearly incorrect majority answer. Over the 12 trials, 75% of people conformed at least once throughout the experiment. However, the test was definitely not difficult because when they were asked to write down their answers individually, 98% got it right. The difference shows the dramatic effect of conformity.
There are several reasons why we conform. Sometimes, if the situation is ambiguous and difficult, you might rely on your surrounding for support to make the best decision, especially when there are other knowledgeable minds around you. Other times, you conform to avoid the discomfort of being ridiculed or uncomfortably different from others. The latter is what Asch, the psychologist, found in this experiment.
We see conformity happening all around us, e.g. at school, at work, in social settings. For example, you might conform to getting a Chase Sapphire card because everyone else around you are getting one, or you might want to work in a particular industry because all of your friends are. We’re all subject to the power of conformity whether we are aware of it or not. Sometimes people willingly conform because they are convinced that it is the right thing to do but that’s not always the case. Other times people conform despite having opinions on something else they should do.
How do we avoid conformity if its not what you want?
*One method is to have a partner who shares your viewpoint. In the line judgment experiment, conformity fell from 32% to 5% when one of the confederates (fake participants) answered the correct answer while others still answered incorrectly.
*If you are not aware when you are conforming, seek out different people’s perspectives. Alternative viewpoints broaden your horizon to consider other options out there. There are 7 billion people in this world with abundant interests, so you can’t be the only one.
p.s. here is a video on the psych experiment if you’re interested: