Solomon Asch - Conformity

Every day we try to fit in. We may like to think we're individual but most of the time we don't actually want to stand out too much. It's this idea of conformity that the American social psychologist Solomon Asch studied in the 1950s, using nothing more complex than straight black lines drawn on pieces of card - it's one of the classic experiments in psychology.

Asch believed people wouldn't go along with the crowd; he set up his experiment to prove that people would stand up against group pressure. Unknown to his subjects, the rest of the group were stooges or plants, who'd been instructed to say A was longer than B, even though it patently wasn't. Contrary to his expectations, Asch discovered that a third of people went along with the group, even when it contradicted the evidence of their own eyes.
Claudia Hammond investigates the reasons for this and asks whether we're more or less likely to conform today.

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28 minutes

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Tue 9 Dec 2003 11:00