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The Positive Parts of Peer Pressure

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Only one participant was a genuine subject for the experiment; the rest were in cahoots with the researcher: instructed to give pre-selected responses. This was the famous Asch experiment.

Each person on the table was asked to match the length of a given line by choosing one from a set of three lines provided.

The participants were instructed to give a variety of answers so that the whole subject did not get suspicious.

There was also a control group in which all the eight participants were genuine subjects.

The results for the experimental groups were interesting; when surrounded by people giving an incorrect answer, over one-third of the subjects also succumbed and gave an evidently incorrect answer.

One incorrect confederate made little difference to the answers, but the pressure kept increasing when two or three people disagreed.
So why did they conform? The subjects were probed at length after the study. One reason they gave was that they feared facing ridicule — they just wanted to fit in. This is called normative influence. The second reason was

that many of the participants believed that the Confederates were correct and knew better, so they chose to give a response similar to theirs. This is called informational influence.

So what does this experiment tell us?

In today’s world of social media, we can safely assume that a thumbs-up by others matters a lot. We tend to approve of things others are approving of and vice versa.


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