Are You a Victim of Conformity?

By: Sara Abbazia

It turns out that social pressure plays a pretty large role in our society. A series of tests from the 50s called the Asch conformity experiments demonstrated that our actions can be hugely impacted by what others say and do. During the experiment, psychologist Solomon Asch asked his participants to look at three different lines in order to figure out which one was the longest. These people were then placed in groups with other people who were told to purposely say the incorrect answer. 75% of the time, the test subjects went against their better judgment and gave an incorrect answer so that they were in agreement with the rest of the group. Asch’s tests have been repeated many times by psychologists with similar results- one instance had people facing backwards in an elevator, and those who entered later assumed this awkward stance.

Do Asch’s findings hold up in real life? The more I thought about it, the more I agreed. For example, here at Lauralton, we all must conform to the same polo and jumper- yet when it comes to the one aspect of our outfit that we have some control over, our footwear, the majority of students prefer to wear near-identical Sperry’s. Also, we have all had those moments when we are trying to decide what to eat, and decide to pick what our friend chooses. In these cases, conformity is used as an easy solution to trite, relatively unimportant decisions.

What about when it comes to more pressing matters, such as the answer to a test? I tried a conformity experiment where my siblings and I tried to convince my mom that eight times four was twenty-seven, but even against all of us, she stood her ground (in case I fooled any of you, the answer is thirty-two). Of course, she hesitated a little before rebuking us. Perhaps with a math problem of enough fervor, even the smartest pupil would feel obligated to conform to a wrong answer.

Why are we so afraid to go against the grain? With some cases, we are afraid to answer a question with only one acceptable answer incorrectly. Anyone would be hesitant to speak their mind if they were not ensured that they had all the facts. However, what about circumstances with no one right answer? If everyone picks red, is it wrong if you pick blue? Is it really so bad if you also pick red? What if you were going to pick red anyways, but now you cannot without looking like a conforming sheep? Blending in does have its perks, and it feels nice to go with what is familiar, with what is “normal.” However, is our desire to fit in stopping us from really being ourselves?

I believe that everything is good in moderation. If you want to wear Sperry’s to school, go right on ahead- but maybe try mixing up your look on a dress-down day. If you want to face the wrong way in an elevator, I suppose you can do that too- but you should at least consider why other people might want to face forwards. Ultimately, it is more important to be yourself than to worry about what other people may think of you.

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