Social Pressure and
yourself in the following situation: You sign up for a psychology experiment, and on a
specified date you and seven others whom you think are also subjects arrive and are seated
at a table in a small room. You don't know it at the time, but the others are actually
associates of the experimenter, and their behavior has been carefully scripted. You're the
only real subject.
experimenter arrives and tells you that the study in which you are about to participate
concerns people's visual judgments. She places two cards before you. The card on the left
contains one vertical line. The card on the right displays three lines of varying length.
(click image for full view)
experimenter asks all of you, one at a time, to choose which of the three lines on the
right card matches the length of the line on the left card. The task is repeated several
times with different cards. On some occasions the other "subjects" unanimously
choose the wrong line. It is clear to you that they are wrong, but they have all given the
you do? Would you go along with the majority opinion, or would you "stick to your
guns" and trust your own eyes?
social psychologist Solomon Asch devised this experiment to examine the extent to which
pressure from other people could affect one's perceptions.1
In total, about one third of the subjects who were placed in this situation went along
with the clearly erroneous majority.
Some of the
subjects indicated afterward that they assumed the rest of the people were correct and
that their own perceptions were wrong. Others knew they were correct but didn't want to be
different from the rest of the group. Some even insisted they saw the line lengths as the
majority claimed to see them.
concluded that it is difficult to maintain that you see something when no one else does.
Pressure from other people can make you see almost anything.