Conformism: why do we submit to peer pressure?
Several experiments, such as Asch's, explain why humans tend to be conformists.
You have probably ever wondered why most people why most people have a tendency to follow the dictates of the majority?.
Psychology has tried to find out what makes people bow to group pressure, what are the causes of herd behavior, what is the nature of group pressure and to what extent an individual is able to give up his or her own judgment in favor of the masses.
The conformism can be defined as those modifications or changes that occur in a person's behavior or opinion as a result of real or imagined pressure from people or groups of people. of people or groups of people.
Several experiments that bring us closer to the phenomenon of conformism
One of the most significant psychological experiments was conducted in the 1950s by Solomon Asch. I propose that you put yourself in the following situation.
You volunteer to participate in an experiment on perceptual judgment. In a room with other participants, the experimenter shows you all a straight line (line X), while at the same time showing you three other comparison lines (lines A, B and C). The task is to determine which of the three lines has the same length as the X line.
Clearly you know that the correct answer is line B and you will indicate this to the experimenter when it is your turn. However, the first participant answers that it is line A, and you are understandably surprised by his answer. When the second person's turn comes, he/she also answers line A, probably this second answer will surprise you even more and you start to think how can it be, if it is clearly line B? But when the third participant's turn comes and he also says line A, you examine the lines once again and start to doubt and wonder if you could be wrong. A fourth participant, in his turn, clearly answers line A. Finally, your turn comes and you naturally answer line A, you knew it all along.
This is the conflict experienced by the participants in Asch's study. The experiment was simple: it consisted of gathering university students and showing them different cards with the standard line and three other lines to compare. The participants had to answer aloud, and the experimental subject was never placed in the first positions to answer, so that the rest of the participants who were accomplices of the experimenter could give the wrong answer agreed upon before the subject.
Group pressure 'modifies' our perception
The results of the experiment showed that when the subject was not subjected to group pressure and was allowed to make a series of line length judgments alone, there was an almost total absence of errors, given the simplicity of the task. In cases where the subject was confronted with a unanimous majority answering incorrectly, approximately 35 percent of all responses were incorrect, they conformed to the incorrect judgments made by the accomplices..
Other experiments similar to Asch's
Asch's experiment has been replicated in more than one hundred studies in different countries showing identical results. The results show that when faced with a majority that makes a wrong judgment, people tend to conform to the wrong social perception, people tend to conform to the wrong social perception..
In a situation where there were no restrictions on individuality and no sanctions against nonconformity, participants tended to conform. Why did participants conform to the opinion of others?
The causes and factors of conformity
Conformity was due to two possible causes: they were convinced, in the face of the unanimous judgment of the majority, that their opinion was wrong, or they followed the opinion of others in order to be accepted by the majority or to avoid the rejection that disagreement would produce in the group. In other words, the subjects had two goals: to be right and to ingratiate themselves with the rest of the group. In many circumstances, both goals can be satisfied by a single action.
In Asch's experiment, if others' opinions about the length of the lines were the same as yours, both goals could be satisfied. However, the two goals conflicted, producing the effect of conformity.. The effect of conforming to the responses of others has less to do with imitation than with the need to reduce the dissonance between one's own perception and the judgments made by others.
Factors that increase or reduce conformism
The unanimity or lack of unanimity in the opinion of the majority, is one of the crucial factors that determine the subject's propensity to conformism. If one of the group members gives an answer that differs from the majority, this drastically reduces the pressure to conform and increases the likelihood that the subject will be more inclined to give his or her opinion.
In other words, If only one person gives a different answer, conformism is reduced and the power of the group is diminished.. However, if there is unanimity, it is not necessary for the volume of the majority to be high for it to cause maximum conformism in a person. The tendency to conform to group pressure, with a unanimous majority is practically the same regardless of the number of people who make up that majority.
The commitment is one of the factors that can reduce conformism, when individuals have publicly committed to a judgment or opinion before listening to the majority opinion, there is a greater likelihood that the person will maintain his or her opinion and not conform to those of the majority..
3. Individual variables: self-esteem and ability
There are certain individual variables that increase or reduce conformism. In general, people with a poor opinion of themselves are more likely to bow to peer pressure in order to avoid rejection than those with high self-esteem. Another factor to take into account is the person's belief in his or her own ability to perform the task successfully, for example in Asch's experiment those subjects who were allowed to pre-judge the length of the lines indicating the correct answer tended less to conformism than those who were not allowed to perform the task beforehand.
4. Group composition
The group composition The pressure exerted by the pressure is another factor that modulates the effect of compliance. Thus, a group will be more effective in inducing conformity if it is composed of experts, a group will be more effective in inducing conformity if it is composed of experts, if the members are important to the individual and if they are in some way similar or comparable to the individual, such as classmates.If the members are important to the individual and if they are in some way similar or comparable to the individual, such as classmates.
5. Sense of group belonging
The valuation of group membership influences the degree of conformity. Thus, those who value group membership and feel only moderately accepted will show a greater tendency to conform, those who value group membership and feel only moderately accepted will show a greater tendency to adapt to the norms and guidelines created by the group than those who feel fully accepted. and guidelines created by the group than those who feel totally accepted.
Finally, the authority increases conformism. In those situations where the opinion or judgment comes from an authority figure, the appearance of authority can lend legitimacy to an opinion or request and generate a high degree of compliance.. As was found in another of the most famous experiments in psychology, the Milgram experiment in which most participants showed obedience to authority.
In conclusion, this experiment shows the great influence that others have on our own elaboration of beliefs and opinions. It also shows that in some cases we are easily manipulated and can vary our more subjective beliefs such as ideals, political tendencies such as ideals, political leanings and even one's own tastes.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)