Edited and curated by @philhagspiel
The more people around us adopt a certain viewpoint, the more we are inclined to represent that viewpoint in front of the group as well — whether or not we actually believe it.
We succumb to representing or even accepting false beliefs and attitudes due to our intrinsic need to fit in. Even when we are aware that something is wrong, we are tempted to support it simply because everyone else seems to be acting in the same way. This is referred to as Asch Conformity, a psychological group phenomenon that hinders the expression of minority viewpoints (first described following experiments in the 1950s by Solomon Asch).
For millennia of human history, being able to blend in with those around us has been a vital evolutionary advantage. In order to not get slaughtered by nature, cooperative or even opportunistic behavior used to be the only real option. The effects of this learned habit are still with us now, even if our social and environmental environments have drastically changed and disagreeing with those around us doesn’t automatically lead to being isolated among wild predators anymore (usually).
Directionally, the more people around us adopt a certain viewpoint, the more we are inclined to represent that viewpoint in front of the group as well — whether or not we actually believe it.
We typically conform for two main reasons: we want to fit in with the group and not look stupid in front of others (normative influence) and because we believe the group is actually more informed than we are (informational influence).
Asch conformity is strongly related to other social phenomena such as groupthink, social comparison theory, or the bandwagon effect. While it appears that our fundamental desire to blend in won’t just magically disappear any time soon, being mindful of the effect and designing environments to mitigate it are important.
A few further resources you might like if you find the above idea interesting:
- 📚 Robert Cialdini’s Influence
- 📚 Steve Stewart-Williams’ The Ape That Understood The Universe
- 📚 Hans Rosling’s Factfulness
- 🎥 Asch Conformity Experiment (experiment footage)
- 📝 Wikipedia: Asch Conformity Experiments
- 📝 The Power Of Social Pressure
- 📝 MindVault: The Dunning Kruger Effect
- 📝 MindVault: The Overton Window
- 📝 MindVault: The Plausibility Bias