Conformity seems to be a popular topic in society. People are always telling others not to conform to other people and to be their own person. People get criticized for being a "follower" or someone who copies what other people do instead of making their own decisions. The Asch Paradigm studies the conformity amongst people. The study asked people to participate in a vision study where they say which of the three lines (A, B, or C) match the reference line. All of the participants are confederates of the study and one of them is an actual participant that does not know anything about the study. The study is set so the confederates will all answer with the wrong line and see if the participant will conform to their answer, even though their answer is obviously wrong. Asch hypothesized that participants would not conform and answer the incorrectly when the confederates gave a wrong answer before them. Surprisingly, Asch's hypothesis was wrong. Participants provided an incorrect answer on a high proportion of the questions. Studies today still provide similar results to Asch's studies that were done in the 1950s. This shows that people are still just as likely to conform today as they were during the original study.
In discussion this week we watched a video on conformity. It featured an experiment with people facing towards the back of an elevator with a random person who did not know about the experiment. The person felt uncomfortable and would generally turn in the direction of the other people standing in the elevator. As a class we discussed reasons why people might feel obligated to conform. Some of the reasons were because they feel awkward being the only person doing or saying something different, so they conform so they do not stand out. The other topic that the class discussed was when it is safe to conform or when it could be dangerous to conform. It would be safe to conform when you are in a country where you do not know the norms. Following other people's lead would be smart so you do not offend anyone by doing something that is frowned upon. A dangerous time to conform would be conforming to the Nazi beliefs during the Holocaust. You would then be risking other people's lives and putting them in danger. It is interesting to think about all the times we conform without even thinking about it.
Here is a clip from Mean Girls that shows how people conform to what is "popular" at the time. It is very short, but it gets the point across: