Many people believe they are non-conformist in the sense that they will not do anything they don’t want to even in the presence of their peers. After all you wouldn’t drink just because other people were drinking or wear red pants just because your friends do right?
“In psychological terms, conformity refers to an individual's tendency to follow the unspoken rules or behaviors of the social group to which he or she belongs. Researchers have long been interested in the degree to which people follow or rebel against social norms.”
The Asch Experiment conducted by Solomon Asch in 1950s showed that people in groups actually do follow what others say or do more than they think they do. This concept would be equivalent to your group of friends and peers and how you would react within them.
In the Asch experiment a group of subjects were asked to participate in a vision test. They were shown a line and asked to choose the match from the other lines that were presented for the sake of comparison. Only the test subjects was being tested; the rest of the group was actually part the experiment. The group members first answered correctly but then deliberately answered incorrectly; all choosing the same wrong answer. This Solomon Asch could determine if the test subjects would go against the group and choose the right answer or conform to the group and answer incorrectly.
Asch found that almost 75 person of the test subjects went along with the wrong answer at least once even though they knew what the right answer was.
How many people in the group had an impact on the test subject’s conformity?
There was no influence if just one other person was in the group, a slight difference when there were two and a major impact if there were three or more additional members in the experiment group. Furthermore, if just one member of the group gave the right answer it made an impact and the test subject was least likely to give the incorrect answer to conform to the group.
Why did the test subjects conform?
Some reported that they knew the right answer but since the others disagreed they felt they could have been wrong.
Others said they knew they were right but didn’t want to say so because they thought they would be ridiculed by the others.
The implications of the Asch experiment in real life
People in general conform because they feel what their peers are doing is right or that they have a need to fit in.
Criticism of the Asch experiment
Some researchers maintain the conformity in this experiment may have been because the test subjects were more concerned about avoiding conflict rather than conforming to the group.; while others belief that lab experiment do not portray real life situations. However, these experiments have spurred on many experiments of this nature to add to the body of knowledge already known about human behavior.
My personal take on conformity
I see conformity happening all the times and there are many studies showing how groups to conform especially among teenagers who want to fit in. I have clinic experience as a retired therapist. I also have personal experiences where I do conform because of the group. For example I started wearing earrings again because others in my peer group are wearing them.
However I am generally a non-conformist. There are situations where I will not conform, if the situation that presents itself goes against my personal convictions or value system.