Conformity: How Important Is It to YOU to Fit In?
When Dr. Solomon Asch designed his experiment to measure conformity, he genuinely believed most test subjects in his experiments would not conform. Asch was very surprised when such a large number of test subjects did in fact conform.
The well-known Solomon Asch Experiments exploring conformity consistently determined that 32% of test subjects wanted to conform most of the time and fit in with the people around them, and they did not want to be seen as ‘boat rockers,’ or to stand out at all. While 32% is not a huge number of people, it is nearly one third of a large group, and that still makes it a notable amount, though not a majority.
The Asch Experiments also showed consistently that 75% of test subjects wanted to fit in some of the time with the people around them more than they wanted to stand out or be seen as different. That is a very large portion of a group of people – three quarters of a group.
The Asch Experiments also showed that 5% of the test subjects always went along with the crowd.
Experiments in Conformity
How Important Is It to YOU to FIt In?
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Findings From These Experiments Suggest Several Things
* Circumstances determine behavior more than personality or character. When not influenced by 4 or more people, test subjects were more inclined to answer questions correctly during the experiment, although just three other people with a differing opinion was often enough to sway many test subjects. However, when 4 or more people that the test subject thought were test subjects like themselves answered a question incorrectly, the actual test subject gave a wrong answer also.
32% of the time, even when test subjects knew the correct answer, and knew the answer they were giving was wrong, they went along with the majority in the group. Apparently 4 is the magic number that sways the most people to go along with a particular group of people, right or wrong.
* The results of the experiments suggest that in addition to being strongly influenced by the people around them, most test subjects placed more importance on fitting in with the people around them than on reporting accurate information. This in turn would transfer to placing ‘fitting in,’ or conforming to a group’s standards, as more important to an individual than everything else.
It would seem that to a lot of people, fitting in with one’s classmates, friends, family, or coworkers, even when they are wrong, is of greater personal importance than succeeding at something that matters and that could make a big difference in their own lives. It could affect whether or not they choose to get good grades, use illegal drugs, or engage in other negative or positive behaviors.
* The other participants in the experiments were actually part of the experiments and were purposely giving wrong answers to test the reaction of the test subject. How much more influence might friends, neighbors, coworkers, and real classmates have on these test subjects and in turn on people in general?
Results of the Asch Experiments strongly suggest that most people are more comfortable conforming with whatever group that they happen to be in whether that group is right or wrong. It is my conclusion that if that group consisted of classmates, family, coworkers, friends, or even acquaintances, the compulsion to conform would be much stronger.
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Fitting In With the People Around You
The reason a fad of any kind takes hold is because people feel more comfortable conforming. The reason many people do what they do is not because they are being individualistic, but because they are influenced by the people around them and they want to fit in with those people. Many people do not like to stand out from the crowd and prefer instead to be just like everyone else.
People like to say they think for themselves and do what they believe is right, but in fact most people choose to go along with the crowd. One does not have to conduct an experiment to prove this.
If a person is living amongst Republicans, they are likely to take on the Republican persona, likewise if they are living amongst Democrats or Libertarians. If many or most of one’s friends are animal rights advocates, one is more likely to become interested in animal rights and to promote that agenda.
The reason people want to fit in is not only because they feel more comfortable as one of the group, but also because if they do not conform to the group, the group will reject them. So there fears of what will happen to them if they do not conform are not unfounded.
A person who does not conform to society’s rules will find it harder to get and keep a job, or to make sales if they are sales people. These are just two examples of why people conform. Nonconformists will even find it harder to be successful on hubpages.com if they do not conform to what the majority of hubbers here, or the more vocal hubbers here, approve of.
The adage, “be yourself,” only safely applies if “yourself” is pretty much like everyone else. If “yourself” is not mostly like everyone else, being yourself will likely be a painful and punishing experience.
A short explanation of how conformity wins the day as time passes, even with people who refused to conform initially.
© 2012 C E Clark
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