Conformity. Asch experiment

El tiempo estimado de lectura es de 4 minutos

In the following lines I will try to explain the main conclusion derived from the Asch Conformity experiments and how can we link them with some other factors which have also influence on individual behaviours. For doing that I have imagined a fictional story, happening in a fictional country, during fictional scaffolding assembling operations made by non-earthling beings who work as “assemblers” (a very strange profession not still known in our Planet) J.

So let’s imagine a new hired and experienced worker on his first day on the job. Let’s also imagine he had to erect a modular structure together with his new team. So, once there, his coworkers started to build the structure without using any safety harness, a basic safety rule for the new employee (Oh! Yes, you are right! It is a unique coincidence with our real world because we have also safety harness here!). But, let’s move and imagine our friend asking for a safety harness and how his new colleagues replied him: Come on, guy! Do not tell us you are one of those “safe beings”! And thereafter they continued working… and tell him: Move on! We are late!

It is possible that the group “pressure” defeated his basic and predetermined individual rule, making our new hired friend to continue working without using the safety harness. Why? Apparently, as it is explained through social psychology theories, our friend conformed to the group (OK, I know! It is the second coincidence in comparison with our world: in their extra planetary world there are also psychologists!).

With this aim in mind, conformity refers to the individual tendency to follow some unwritten rules or behaviours arising from the group (society) to which the individual belongs.

But, is conformity really so powerful to influence the individual behavior as I say? Salomon Asch, a famous social psychologist, devised early in the fifties what now is regarded a classic experiment to show the extent to which how social pressure of a majority group could affect a person to conform.

The most fun Asch’s experiment (and also the most self-explaining one) can be seen in the following video. We will see different participants entering into an elevator and how, once inside, they are influenced and how they conform by means of collective behaviors from some other people (confederates) in the elevator. Let’s see.

 

As we saw, the “intangible pressure” of a group drives the individual to conform. It seems we are a social animal and our wishes of belonging a group can influence our own individual values or beliefs. It is possible if we think we are stronger and we have more chances either to survival or to success if we belong to a group. However, this belief could be pernicious if the group watern down our ethical or positive values and rules towards less positive ones and even endanger ourselves.

So in such situations where the group pressure drive us to modify a non-significant behavior (for our own beliefs) there exist some possibilities to accept them in order to avoid conflict.

So basically the individual conforms either because he wants to fit in with the group (normative influence, conflict elusion) or because he believes the group is better informed he is (informational influence, unwritten rules).

Remember these key words: conformity and conflict elusion.

And now, I invite you to revisit our friend during his first day on the job. Now, he is assembling modular pieces some meters above the structure. He is not using the harness, like his new coworkers. And now, what a coincidence! Some executives from the company have just arrived to the workplace. The came for another Galaxy (they used a latest interplanetary spacecraft) and they are in a hurry.

Some of these executives have experience on interplanetary building activities. They take a look the activities and they have a brief meeting with the foreman. One of them, the youngest one, whispers in one of the executive’s ear: should not they use a safety harness? The other hear this questions and looking down the young guy reply him: if they are not using it and the foreman, who is here talking with us, has not instructed nothing different, is because it is not needed. The young executive pondered to reply for a while, but he remained silent and nodded.

The Executive’s Team concluded their visit and thy moved from that place. Just bystanders…

So now, please, add a new word to the previous list: conformity, conflict elusion and bystander effect.

The cocktail is served. It is only a matter of time before an unwanted event happens.

Asch experiment

What can we do, if indeed we can do something, in order to remove these ingredients?

Are you familiar with this situation? Oh! I insist, it is simply a coincidence!

Have a safe day!

 

Prevencontrol

PrevenControl es la firma especializada en seguridad y salud laboral que propone soluciones eficaces e innovadoras para la mejora del negocio y la reputación de sus clientes a través de la consultoría, el uso de la tecnología y la formación.
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