One concept this year in psychology class that has really stood out to me, coincidently has been the most recent topic discussed in my psych discussion group. That concept is the social influence on conformity. Conformity is the tendency for people to alter their behaviors as a result of group pressure. Solomon Asch conducted one of the most popular tests on conformity in the mid 1950's, where he used "confederates" (fake subjects of people who knew what the test was about) to influence the actual subject's answers. The tester would show the subjects a group of lines and state which of the three lines matched a standard line. After a few tests where the confederates would say the true answer, they would switch it up and all the confederates would purposely say the wrong long matched the standard line and the real subject would be confused. Asch found that about 75% of the subjects would in-fact conform with the group and answer the question incorrectly. There were some ways where the subject was less likely to conform though. When at least one other confederate gave a different answer than the others, the subject was less likely to conform and more likely to say the actual right answer. The other way he found subjects less likely to conform is when he had the subjects write down their answers on a sheet of paper that would be kept quiet from the rest of the group. Subjects in this test answered correctly almost 100% of the time.
Conformity doesn't only happen with choosing lines though, as seen in a video during my discussion class, people conform to the group during real world situations. In one situation, four confederates would walk into an elevator where a "subject" was standing facing outwards. The confederates would walk in and face backwards in the elevator, and in nearly every test, the subject would eventually turn around to face the back of the elevator. The picture below is an example where this test took place, with everyone but one of the people in this picture being a confederate, you can see the subject turned around as well. (the guy in the black shirt)
To further test the strengths of conformity, some friends and I conducted an experiment in our dorm. Four friends and I (all taking the psychology 1001 class) would walk into a room of one of our friends who was just watching TV, and the five of us would casually sit down and start reading a book from one of our classes. Of the five different subjects we tested, four of them stopped watching TV and picked up one of their books to start reading. The one subject who didn't conform with us, later admitted that he thought about studying for a class but he already took three midterms that week and had nothing to study for.
The fact that such a high percentage of people will conform to a group in any situation amazes me. It makes events that previously seemed unbelievable (such as the holocaust as an extreme example) actually seem realistic. The fact that people around us affect our decision making so strongly is remarkable. These reasons make me believe that I will still remember the concept of conformity five years from now.