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  • When you disagree with everyone around you, do you have the courage to speak up?

  • Most people find that hard to do.

  • We feel pressure to go along with what those around us are saying or doing, and we don't

  • have to rely on our personal experiences to know this is true.

  • A number of experiments reveal a powerful human desire to conform.

  • In the 1950s, psychologist Solomon Asch conducted a famous conformity experiment.

  • In this study, a test subject is asked to sit with a group of other people.

  • He thinks everyone else is a test subject, like he is, but the others are really confederates

  • of the researcher, who have been told to give certain answers in the experiment.

  • The researcher presents a line drawn on a board.

  • Beside it are three lines of different lengths.

  • He asks, "Which of the three lines is the same length as the first line?"

  • The test is designed so that the answer is obvious.

  • The subject has been positioned so that he hears most of the others give their answer

  • out loud before he does.

  • The group repeats this process for many different sets of lines.

  • In the first few rounds, everyone gives the correct answer, but then something strange

  • starts to happen.

  • In about two thirds of the rounds that follow, everyone ahead of the subject gives the same

  • wrong answer.

  • The subject faces a dilemma.

  • Does he give the answer he believes is correct or go along with the group?

  • Asch repeated variations of this experiment with over 120 subjects, and some troubling

  • trends emerged.

  • When the rest of the group was answering incorrectly, 37% of the subjects' responses conformed with

  • the incorrect group response; 75% of subjects caved to peer pressure and gave the wrong

  • answer at least once.

  • That means only one out of every four test subjects was willing to consistently voice

  • dissent.

  • Keep in mind, there was no overt pressure to conform.

  • There were no rewards for giving the correct answer and no punishments for giving the wrong

  • answer.

  • The stakes were low, but the social pressure was high, nonetheless.

  • Subjects were asked afterwards why they had chosen to give the wrong answer.

  • Some figured, "These people can't all be wrong, so I must be seeing things wrong."

  • Others remained convinced their own answer was right, but they didn't want to disagree

  • with the rest of the group.

  • The line length test seems quite different from the situations we face in everyday life,

  • but we see similar findings when people are asked to make more meaningful judgments, too.

  • Psychologist Richard Crutchfield asked subjects to consider the following statement: "Free

  • speech, being a privilege rather than a right, it is proper for a society to suspend free

  • speech whenever it feels itself threatened."

  • Among subjects answering alone, only 19% agreed, but when faced with a group unanimously affirming

  • the statement, 58% of subjects agreed.

  • These experiments reveal a powerful tendency to conform with those around us, even when

  • that means we act against what we actually think is right, but there is a ray of hope.

  • In a variation of his original experiment, Asch instructed a single confederate to give

  • the right answer.

  • That means the test subject still held the minority view, but there was now one other

  • person on his side.

  • In this scenario, subjects conformed only one quarter as often as when they faced a

  • unanimous majority.

  • This suggests an important lesson.

  • If you're in the uncomfortable position of disagreeing with the people around you, try

  • to have the courage to speak up.

  • There's a good chance others will be emboldened by your example and do the same.

  • Overcoming the pull of conformity is hard, but when the stakes are high, and the majority

  • is wrong, the courage of one person can make all the difference.

When you disagree with everyone around you, do you have the courage to speak up?

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B1 INT US answer wrong answer subject group wrong experiment

Do You Have the Courage to Dissent?

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    Annie Huang   posted on 2020/03/23
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