Summary: A recent study replicates and extends Solomon Asch’s famous conformity experiments, revealing intriguing insights about human behavior.
The research demonstrates that monetary incentives reduce conformity errors in line-judging tasks, though social influence remains a factor. It also extends Asch’s findings to political opinions, showing a significant rate of conformity.
Interestingly, the study finds that openness, but not other personality traits like intelligence or self-esteem, is inversely related to conformity, challenging long-held assumptions about social influence.
The study replicated Asch’s experiment with 210 participants, finding a 33% error rate in standard line-judging tasks and a 25% error rate when monetary incentives were involved.
When examining political opinions, the conformity rate was 38%, suggesting that social influence extends beyond simple perceptual tasks to more complex beliefs.
Among various personality traits studied, only ‘openness’ from the Big Five was found to be significantly related to lower susceptibility to conformity, contrary to expectations about traits like intelligence or self-esteem.
Source: Neuroscience News
In the realm of social psychology, few experiments have garnered as much attention and debate as Solomon Asch’s conformity experiments from the 1950s. These groundbreaking studies highlighted the compelling power of social influence, showing how individuals could be swayed by group opinions even against their own senses.
Fast-forward to the present, a recent study seeks to revisit these pivotal experiments, offering fresh insights into the dynamics of conformity in today’s context.
The primary aim of the new research was fourfold: to replicate Asch’s original experiment with a contemporary cohort, to assess the impact of monetary incentives on conformity, to extend the exploration of conformity to the domain of political opinions, and to investigate the relationship between various personality traits and the propensity to conform.
Conducted with 210 participants, the study meticulously replicated Asch’s original line-judging task, while introducing nuanced variations to probe deeper into the psychological underpinnings of conformity.
One of the study’s most compelling findings was the persistent influence of social pressure, even when monetary incentives were introduced. While financial rewards did reduce the error rate from 33% to 25% in line-judging tasks, the fact that a significant proportion of participants still conformed to the group’s incorrect judgment underscores the robustness of social influence.
This finding adds a new layer to our understanding of conformity, suggesting that human behavior in group contexts is not solely driven by rational, self-interested calculations but is also significantly influenced by the desire to align with social norms.
Expanding the scope of Asch’s work, the study also ventured into the realm of political opinions. The researchers found a conformity rate of 38%, indicating that social influence extends beyond simple perceptual tasks to the more complex territory of beliefs and opinions.
This extension is particularly relevant in our current era, where political discourse is increasingly polarized and influenced by group dynamics. The findings suggest that the social environment can significantly shape political views, raising important questions about the formation of public opinion and the role of social conformity in political decision-making.
Another intriguing aspect of the study was its exploration of the relationship between personality traits and susceptibility to conformity. Contrary to what one might expect, the research found that traits like intelligence, self-esteem, and the need for social approval were not convincingly related to conformity. The only exception was ‘openness’ from the Big Five personality traits, which showed an inverse relationship with conformity.
This challenges some traditional assumptions about the types of personalities that are more likely to conform and suggests that a willingness to entertain new ideas and experiences might actually buffer against social pressure.
The study also raises critical questions about the universality of Asch’s findings. While the original experiments were predominantly conducted with American student samples, this research, along with other international studies, suggests that the influence of groups on individual judgment is a universal phenomenon, prevalent across different cultures and contexts.
This universality speaks to the fundamental nature of social influence in human psychology and underscores its relevance across diverse social and cultural landscapes.
However, the study is not without limitations. The sample, composed predominantly of students, highlights the need for further research with more diverse participant pools.
Additionally, the study’s participants were strangers, leaving open the question of whether group pressure would be stronger or weaker among acquaintances or friends.
Furthermore, the study’s use of relatively moderate and general political statements raises the question of whether the findings would hold true for more extreme or divisive opinions.
Despite these limitations, the study offers a compelling modern reexamination of Asch’s conformity experiments. It not only reaffirms the enduring power of social influence but also extends our understanding of how this influence manifests in the context of political opinions and the role of personality traits in susceptibility to conformity.
The findings have far-reaching implications for various domains, from understanding group dynamics in organizational settings to the shaping of public opinion in the political arena.
In conclusion, this study not only pays homage to a classic experiment but also propels it into the contemporary era, offering new insights and raising intriguing questions for future research.
It serves as a reminder of the complex interplay between individual psychology and social dynamics, a relationship that continues to fascinate and challenge researchers in the field of social psychology.
About this conformity and social neuroscience research news
The power of social influence: A replication and extension of the Asch experiment
In this paper, we pursue four goals: First, we replicate the original Asch experiment with five confederates and one naïve subject in each group (N = 210).
Second, in a randomized trial we incentivize the decisions in the line experiment and demonstrate that monetary incentives lower the error rate, but that social influence is still at work.
Third, we confront subjects with different political statements and show that the power of social influence can be generalized to matters of political opinion.
Finally, we investigate whether intelligence, self-esteem, the need for social approval, and the Big Five are related to the susceptibility to provide conforming answers.
We find an error rate of 33% for the standard length-of-line experiment which replicates the original findings by Asch (1951, 1955, 1956). Furthermore, in the incentivized condition the error rate decreases to 25%.
For political opinions we find a conformity rate of 38%. However, besides openness, none of the investigated personality traits are convincingly related to the susceptibility of group pressure.