Opinions and Social Pressure Essay

2180 WordsOct 31, 20129 Pages
Solomon Arch: Opinions and Social Pressure Have you ever doubted your viewpoint on a certain subject? What if your opinion was disagreed upon by a majority of people? Would you stick to your basic perceptions and feelings? Or would you conform? It is safe to say that social influences shape people’s practices, judgments, and beliefs. Social psychologist Solomon Asch was stricken by this set of questions leading him to conduct a famous experiment in the 1950s. Asch wanted to measure to what extent group pressure influenced an individual’s mind, and how readily they conformed to the influence. Is sociologist Gabriel Tarde’s aphorism “Social man is a somnambulist” accurate? Are members of society really “sleepwalkers”? Asch determined the accuracy of Tarde’s aphorism and acquired his findings through several similar experiments. Solomon Asch was not the first to show interest in the effects of social pressure on people’s opinions. French physician Jean Charcot believed that it was truly possible to influence a person’s actions and/or senses if they were hysterical. Hyppolyte Bernheim and A.A. Liebault later challenged his theory on hypnosis. These two physicians proposed and demonstrated that anyone can be put under a hypnotic spell, defining hypnosis as an extreme form of normal psychological process; suggestibility. These two physicians revealed how vulnerable people are to monotonous reiteration of instructions, raising the attention of other scientists and doctors alike. If one person can truly put someone else in a trance-like state, how susceptible are human opinions to society? Enters the beginnings of the 20th century: the birth of social psychology. During this time a demonstrative example displayed how the weight of numbers or authority sufficed to change opinions, even when no arguments for their opinions were provided. The experiment went as follows:
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