Asch Conformity Experiment

Societal Behavior Can Be Like A Highway On-Ramp Traffic Light

For those who may not have ever encountered on on-ramp, I shall explain what it is. The on-ramp is the ramp taken from a regular street onto a highway. In most areas, when traffic flow on a highway is relatively smooth, the on-ramp remains yellow or blinks yellow. In these cases, drivers just ignore the sign or treat it more as a warning of entering the highway.

There are moments however, when traffic begins to back up and slow down. When this happens the lights will begin to behave like a regular traffic light. The lights will periodically change from red to green to yellow and to red again. Also, most on-ramp traffic lights have two lanes. Usually, when the traffic light has begun its sequence during the beginning of traffic and no one has acknowledged the light by stopping when it turns red, people generally keep running the light. A phenomena that occurs after the first person acknowledges the traffic light creates a social trend, we’ll call it following suit. It isn’t that the person behind cannot go past because the first person blocks their path, because even when the second person is in the other line, they will stop as well.

The same phenomena occurs in society. There are many examples of this. A recognized example of this is the Asch conformity experiment. For those who are not aware of this experiment, I shall briefly explain. In the experiment, there needs to be multiple individuals that are aware of the experiment and one individual who is the actual subject. You present two pictures to everyone, in one picture is a line, while the other image has three lines. You then have all the individuals, one by one, come towards the pictures and state which line they believe resembles the first picture. This experiment works best when the subject is the last to go and when there is only one subject. All of the individuals before the subject need to state that they believe the noticeably wrong line is the one that resembles the first image. It was found that a substantially significant number of times, the subject will wrongfully agree with the mass, or follow suit, than answer the question accurately.

In like manner, the same thing occurs in society as is explained with the highway on-ramp traffic light example. Until a particular individual comes along and stops at the red light, or states which line is accurately similar to the original, there is less of a chance that the next individual will deviate from the mass. It is however most fascinating when individuals come along and challenge the status quo allowing us to observe the actions taken by those that follow, if they will still stick to the status quo or if they will deviate to conform to the deviator or deviate in their own way seeing as another has the confidence to do the same. Deviation can be both good and bad. It is bad when deviation is from a status quo that benefits society, it is good when the status quo has been incorrect or immoral and is coming to light as so.

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