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Politics and the Asch Experiment

Myself, being an armchair politic, have watched the world of politics from home either via the internet or television. I see our “leaders” in government do things that, in my opinion, are completely insane and irrational. Yet, I see many people support and follow their favorite politician and/or political party faithfully. I have to scratch my head and wonder in complete amazement how and why people can actually believe what I’m seeing before my eyes. Then today, I stumbled across a video about the Asch Experiment, and this helps explain perfectly what is occurring.

The Asche Experiment, according to Wikipedia, were a series of studies published in the 1950s that demonstrated the power of conformity in groups. These are also known as the “Asch Paradigm”.

In the basic Asch paradigm, the participants — the real subjects and the confederates — were all seated in a classroom. They were asked a variety of questions about the lines such as how long is A, compare the length of A to an everyday object, which line was longer than the other, which lines were the same length, etc. The group was told to announce their answers to each question out loud. The confederates always provided their answers before the study participant, and always gave the same answer as each other. They answered a few questions correctly but eventually began providing incorrect responses.

In a control group, with no pressure to conform to an erroneous view, only one subject out of 35 ever gave an incorrect answer. Solomon Asch hypothesized that the majority of people would not conform to something obviously wrong; however, when surrounded by individuals all voicing an incorrect answer, participants provided incorrect responses on a high proportion of the questions (32%). Seventy-five percent of the participants gave an incorrect answer to at least one question.

Therefore, I have come to conclude that the future of this country, and myself of a citizen of the US, is being built on one fact (although out of many others) that people conform to those around them. People, being social creatures, are in essence followers, and we are often following those who really do not have any business in the lead position. And who knows who our leaders are actually following? “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain…” Should they really be leading? Or are they merely puppets for a stronger, more powerful force behind the curtain?

Activists see this and stand up for what they believe. Isn’t it time that we stop following based upon what those who we consider our peers believe, and start asking our own questions and making our own decisions?

Additionally, my opinion here is not based purely upon this video – but it did help pull things together in my mind. I have always been a people-watcher… forever watching, studying, and learning about the behavior of people. I have watched my friends in larger social circles conform to those who hold a more leadership position – and on occassion, what goes through my head is, “wtf…”

I know that I, myself, have fallen into this following pattern simply due to the fact that I have always been led to believe that if it’s in the media, it must be true. Now, especially in this incredible age of the internet, I see that the news often will only give you the information they want you to know… and the general public follows along like sheep believing everything they’ve been fed.

I implore you to seek out other channels of news, media… gather information, and come to your own conclusions. Stop following, but rather, become more of a participant – standing up for what you believe, and not always believing everything you hear.

Go ahead... I can hear your thoughts. Please share with the rest!

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