Watch this Clip on the Asch Conformity Experiment to see Groupthink in Action

Let’s take a clinical look at how group pressure works.  Everyone should know about the Asch conformity experiments.   In the 1950’s social psychologist  Solomon Asch conducted a series of experiments on how social pressure could cause people to deny the evidence of their own eyes.  The four-minute clip below is from experiments conducted a couple of decades later.

Notice how group pressure can change how one expresses an opinion, or even a statement of an obvious and simple fact, such as the length of a line!  How about that moment at about 1:45 where all of the confederates (non-subjects) look askance at the subject when he gives a different answer? Then, notice the subject’s concessionary tone at about 2:01 when he later knowingly gives an incorrect answer in order to avoid the discomfort of disagreeing.  Wow!  This is America 2014, isn’t it? This is exactly how political correctness is meant to work: to extract compliance with PC agendas.

The main points to take away from this clip are:

  1. Unanimity of the group is what bears the greatest pressure on a person to express a conforming opinion.
  2. Unanimity can be punctured and one can be emboldened to speak up if someone else speaks up first.
  3.  Access to secret ballot greatly relieves the tyranny of the group.

Watching this reinforces the fact that a secret ballot is essential to preserving freedom of conscience. But unless more of us are willing to express our opinions,  we can’t influence anyone.  We end up instead cultivating a spiral of silence.   This kind of silence quickly erodes our freedom of expression and, with it, our freedom of association. It serves to separate us and isolate us further. Unfortunately, when we are conflicted and confronted by group pressures, the herd instinct for survival — and the utter terror of isolation — definitely seem to kick in for many of us.  So let’s build an awareness of this reality. It’s the first step to resisting groupthink and avoiding the dire consequences of silencing ourselves.

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