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About Conformism And Non-conformism - How The Group Influences Us - Society
About Conformism And Non-conformism - How The Group Influences Us - Society

Video: About Conformism And Non-conformism - How The Group Influences Us - Society

Video: About Conformism And Non-conformism - How The Group Influences Us - Society
Video: Social Influence: Crash Course Psychology #38 2023, June

In 1951, a scientific note by American psychologist Solomon Asch, "The Impact of Group Pressure on Changes and Distortion of Judgments," was published. The article describes an experiment that clearly demonstrates the phenomenon of conformism - the subordination of an individual to the opinion of the group

Do not believe your eyes

Asch's experiment was very simple, but ingenious: the subject was asked to "check the eye". First, he was shown a card with a reference - a drawn vertical line. After that, he was shown another 18 cards, on which three vertical segments were drawn, one of which coincided in length with the reference one; and it was necessary to indicate which one exactly matches.

The task was easy (the segments varied greatly in length), and if the subject did it alone, all his answers were correct. But the experiment was carried out in a group where out of eight participants, seven were "decoys", and only one was a naive subject. The procedure was organized in such a way that first the answer to the question (whether the length of the segment on the card coincides with the standard) was given by the "decoy", and after them the subject answered.

The "decoys" answered the first two questions quite adequately. But with the third card, real miracles began: everyone unanimously asserted that the segment on the card "absolutely coincides" with the reference segment, which in fact was two times shorter.

It was simply impossible not to notice this, and the naive subject faced a difficult choice: either agree with the choice of the group (which would be a deliberate lie and distortion of reality), or give his own answer (which would correspond to reality). In the first case, the subject confirmed his loyalty to the group, apparently hoping for a reciprocal acceptance. In the second case, the subject opposed himself to the group, risking rejection.

For or against?

What were the results of the experiment? 75% of naive subjects agreed at least once with the obviously wrong answer given by the group. Asch's experiments were repeated many times in various modifications, and the general conclusion is that the severity of conformity corresponds to the law of normal distribution. This means that approximately 20–25% of the subjects will be “radical conformists,” in almost everything and always agreeing with the opinion of the majority.

At the other extreme of this distribution will be 20-25% of the subjects who can be called "radical nonconformists." These people will always hold an alternative opinion to the generally accepted one (which is funny, they will be “against”, even if the majority opinion in a particular situation is true).

Anyone between the poles of radical conformism or non-conformism can be called "situational conformists." The tendency of the “situational conformist” to agree or disagree with the opinion of the group largely depends on the specifics of the situation in which this consent is required. For example, the more authoritarian the experimenter behaves and the more formal (“strict”, official) the experimental setting, the more difficult it is to contradict the group.

The more "decoy" participants in the group and the more actively (emotionally, loudly, aggressively, etc.) they express the group point of view, the fewer those willing to express a different opinion. If you add to the situation any stress factors that increase anxiety (for example, haste, competition, threat of punishment), it also makes the "situational conformists" more susceptible to the opinion of the majority.

But the most interesting thing in the study of conformity began after the completion of experiments similar to the one invented by Solomon Ash. The researchers asked the subjects, “Why did you agree with the group's opinion? Do you really think that the answer given by the group is correct, corresponds to reality?"

99% of the subjects were fully aware that the group gave a false answer that had nothing to do with reality (the story about 1% of those who actually perceived the answer of the "decoys" as true is beyond the scope of this note; in their case, you can talk about delirium, about a psychotic distortion of reality).

This was followed by another question: "If you knew that the answer given by the group was incorrect, then why did you agree with it?" The answers were different: “I thought it was some kind of joke or a misunderstanding”, “I wanted to play along with the experimenter”, “I understood that there was no point in this, but hoped to get out of this situation as soon as possible,” etc. But all of them can be interpreted as rationalization - psychological protection, with the help of which the subjects tried to reduce the anxiety arising in the situation of group pressure. Rationalization helped to give at least some meaning to what was happening and to justify their own behavior.

About conformism and non-conformism - how the group affects us
About conformism and non-conformism - how the group affects us

I just obeyed the order

It turns out that the reaction of "situational conformists" is paradoxical. On the one hand, can they be considered true conformists if they pretend to please the group (and are well aware of their own pretense)?

On the other hand, the anxiety they feel under pressure from the group is quite real. And perhaps demonstrative agreement with the group is the best way to reduce this very anxiety. Moreover, this anxiety has long-standing evolutionary prerequisites. Biologically, we humans are gregarious creatures. For a primitive man, being expelled from a tribe meant certain death, and acceptance into a group, on the contrary, was a guarantee of survival.

Unfortunately, the pretense of the "situational conformists" can go too far, inducing them to behave in dangerous ways. This was convincingly proved by Stanley Milgram (by the way, a student of Solomon Asch) in another famous experiment, where the subject (at the command of the experimenter) "taught" the third participant in the experiment using electric shocks. 90% of the subjects were ready to inflict mortal suffering on the "student".

Milgram believes that this kind of conformism is typical for most "people in uniform", because they, too, "just follow the order," trying not to think about its meaning and consequences. Almost all Nazi criminals convicted at the Nuremberg trials had ideal characteristics - they were disciplined campaigners (and conformists), diligently following orders, motivated by the common good and serving the interests of the Fatherland.

We're the same blood?

Can agreeing with the group's opinion reduce ancient unconscious anxiety? Unlikely. We are no longer a primitive flock, but a complexly structured society, consisting of many groups, organizations, communities, social institutions. It is not enough for modern man to be just like the members of his tribe.

In Soviet psychology, the term TSOE was proposed - value-orientational unity of group members. Only a member of the group who sincerely shares the goals and values of the community can become truly “their own”. Some group goals may overlap with personal goals; but even non-coinciding group goals should not contradict the personal values of an individual member of the group.

Then we can talk about a true COE, and only such involvement in the group will effectively reduce anxiety. If a person tries to “mimic”, demonstrating only an external commitment to the goals of the group (but without the COE), his anxiety and even fear of being rejected by the group does not disappear anywhere.

In modern society, the situation can be very confusing. The same group may hold conflicting values. The simplest example is a corrupt organization. On the one hand, such an organization must perform its functions efficiently; on the other hand, these functions may not be performed for bribes.

Imagine that a new employee comes to such an organization who intends to honestly fulfill the duties assigned to him. Very soon he realizes that the values of the organization are contradictory, and whatever decision he makes (to honestly do his job or to become corrupt), it will not help him get rid of anxiety. In the absence of COE, conformity becomes a poor tool for reducing social anxiety and tension.

Healthy balance

Conformism (like nonconformism) is not "absolute evil" or "absolute good." For the development of society as a whole and any individual group, it is important that both conformists and non-conformists coexist peacefully in it. Conformists stabilize society by helping to fix and retain current values; nonconformists help society to develop by getting rid of outdated values and value contradictions.

A society that enforces conformism (suppressing nonconformists) gains a false consensus. Members of the community habitually nod their heads, knowing full well that this is “make-believe,” but there is no real COE in such a community. And this means that the group does not have "psychological immunity" to any destructive influences from outside. The unity of the conformist group / society turns out to be nominal and fragile.

A society in which non-conformism is encouraged finds itself at a curious fork. On the one hand, nonconformism can give rise to a "war of all against all", when each group will be locked in its own egoism, ignoring the interests and rights of other groups.

On the other hand, nonconformism initiates a dialogue, the result of which is mutual understanding, reconciliation of interests and strengthening of the social contract. How will this fork be passed? Depends on the readiness of the groups for dialogue, for a joint search for reasonable and conventional ways of reconciling conflicting interests, needs and opinions.

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