As you read this article, think about all the factors that influence a person’s opinion. What was left out of this experiment?
The factors that influence a person’s opinion have been the subject of study and discussion for many years. It is popular thought that the media and authoritative figures have a tremendous amount of power over changing people’s opinions and swaying the majority to decide in their favor. In the article, Opinions and Social Pressure, the author questions this common thought. He states “we should be skeptical, however, of the supposition that the power of social pressurenecessarily implies uncritical submission to it.” (Asch, 1995.) The studies that were outlined in the article were completed on college age males with controls and variables to reach findings on how individuals react to social pressure, even when they are absolutely right in their disagreement.
The experiments pointed to various factors that influence an individual’s opinion. One factor outlined was the amount of people in the majority. When there were more than one, an individual was more likely to side with the majority. As a certain point of adding more people on the opposing majority, the results ceased to change. Another factor was whether or not the majority was close to the individuals opinion or not. Another factor was whether or not the individual had anyone on their side, or at least in disagreement against the majority as well. Abandonment was a factor as well.
The study was formulated around controlled variables to find specific data. It still raises many questions though. For instance, would the results have changed with a different age group? Would they have changed with a mixture of ages? Perhaps the test subject would have been more inclined to disagree if he was older than the other subjects. Perhaps, a subject would be more inclined if he felt he was in a more comfortable setting or around other people he was familiar with. The personalities of the subjects prior to the study were also not noted. The status and confidence levels prior to and after the study were also not noted.
There are so many topics and studies that come into play when researching people’s responses to stimuli. It is common theory to state that people are more inclined to avoid conflict or being uncomfortable. However, some people tend to crave attention, whether it be positive r negative attention. The backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, educational history, personality, upbringing, mental state, gender, and many other factors could potentially come into play when someone is in the position to stand out in the crowd or to keep quiet and follow the crowd. Scientists have strived to answer how and why people act, react, and behave the way they do for many years.
How might the influence of gender affect this experiment? Are men and women more or less likely to influence eachother’s opinion?
The question of gender is not straight forward either in relation to behaviors and reactions. The results may or may not have been different if women were tested as well, but most likely the results would have been skewed as well. Without taking all factors into account, and spending many years studying and testing various environments, backgrounds, educational and job experiences, as well as ethnicities, the results cannot be deemed absolute. Anotherr factor could also be whether or not the individuals have siblings, or if they were the oldest or youngest child. Gender differences are just one of many factors that could have been taken into consideration to find more accurate results. In studying gender difference, emotions are triggered in different parts of the brain, and females are found to be more expressive.This alone does not indicate it is any more of a factor than the others outlined. It depends on personality more than gender when it comes to expressing opinions or giving into others.
- Asch, Solomon. (1995). Opinions and Social Pressure. Sci Am Scientific American, 193(5),31-35.