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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Studies on Human Behavior Part 4:

Solomon Asch conducted several tests involving peer pressure to conform. This experiment is related to other experiments that we have already looked at, Stanford Prison and Milgram experiments. Asch wanted to see how peer pressure would work on people giving incorrect responses because peers were giving the incorrect responses. The experiment involved 8 people sitting around a table with only one of them being the actual subject the rest were confederates. The 8 participants answered a simple question of which line was longest or which line was similar to a reference line. The confederates would at first get answers correct and then start to get them incorrect thus giving Asch a reference point to see how much the subject was influenced by the other people.

The results were very interesting and showed that peer pressure could have a measurable influence on answers given.  In the control group where everyone gave the correct responses there was only 1 incorrect response out of 35. On the other hand when "peers" were giving incorrect responses over one third of the subjects gave incorrect responses. At least 75% of the subjects gave the wrong answer to at least one question when the "peers" were giving incorrect responses.

Follow up experiments showed that with more confederates and the more forceful they were made a difference in the results. One confederate made little difference but influence increased as two or three were added. Also if one confederate disagreed with the other confederates it improved the likely hood that the participant would choose the right answer.

Some things to keep in mind is that the experiment was conducted on all young men who are more impressionable than older adults. However, younger subjects would most likely be more influenced.

This is a great study that shows that people can be easily peer pressured into doing things even if they know that what they are getting pressured into is wrong. People want to fit in. Very few people want to stand out from the crowd. In fact society generally punishes those who stand out, think about your "nerds" and "geeks" in elementary school.

So tell me how this relates to characterization.

13 comments:

  1. this would be a bad experiment to do on me...I cave SO easily to peer pressure. I know it's bad, I'm trying!

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  2. Although I am too old I certainly would n't likw to be peer pressured.

    Yvonne.

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  3. I could see a character in an important meeting or discussion and being negatively influenced by the others there--it might be an interesting test of their determination/resolve.

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  4. I like what The Golden Eagle says. You could use a meeting to show the difference in characters by having one person influenced by the peers while the other one holds strong. Another great post.

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  5. Among my favorite novels are those where the protagonist did not fit in (and, in line with that, did not succumb to peer pressure), and it is that character's struggle that I find so compelling. Personally, I thrive on nonconformity, and in the novels I write, I try to empower the protagonist as s/he attempts to maintain individuality while fitting into a scenario that is at once necessary and challenging. ...Wow, I've never articulated that before! Thanks for provoking me!

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  6. I have to give props to the 'nerds' and 'geeks.' However unpopular in school they may have been they were true to themselves (and kind) and end up successful and happy after all the school drama is over. The populars that conformed may have had a lot of fun (and more often than not were jerks)in school, but when that's all over ... they are pretty directionless. Who do you follow now?

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  7. Absolutely fantastic blog!!! Glad I found it! Love it!!!

    Lola x
    http://lola-x.blogspot.com

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  8. Hi Josh, I think this issue would make for great conflict in a YA novel, because fitting in and not being derided or outcast are concerns to teens. and definitely you could show a character going through the challenges and coming out strenthened by what they came to know or realize. Really nice quesion to raise.

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  9. One thing that bugs me every time in writing is when characters don't act true to human nature. Every writer should take a psychology course or two. Hope you're enjoying the BBQ so far. Thanks for stopping by!

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  10. bad dialogue--that can destroy even the most well-rounded characters!
    followed u over from karen's bbq... brought whiskey and steak! enjoy! and great blog--following!

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  11. Hi Josh ~ I've come to sample your delicious sounded deviled eggs! :) Great to see you at Karen's BBQ. Had to come say hello and visit your blog!

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  12. Hey, I wandered over from Karen's BBQ and didn't expect awesome psychology lessons. These are great blog posts!

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  13. Wonderful post, I enjoyed reading about Asch. I was thinking about that experiment last month and having trouble remembering Asch's name. (Social psychology was one of my favorite college classes).

    For fiction this could be a great source of internal conflict. The story could start out with the character doing something because of peer pressure, then later regretting it. That regret could drive further actions in the story.

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