Opinions and Social Pressure essay

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In his article, Opinions and Social Pressure, Solomon Asch carries out practical experiments that he uses determine the effects that social pressure has on one’s opinion. Asch uses a group of students and adults in his experiments that involves making of decisions while in a group. In some of his experiments, he directs some participants to give a unanimous wrong answer and focuses on one participant who is unaware of the plan as his subject. He performs various experiments changing the number of the participants and their seating arrangements thus coming up with detailed information on the issue. Just as child masters linguistics of its masters, it is true that humankind yields to pressure and opts to make irrational decisions without the use of his conscience.

Social pressure affects the decisions that humankind makes. In his first experiment, Asch instructs a group of students seating in the first row of his participants to give a wrong answers of what he asks. He then focuses on the last participant who is unaware of the plan. He observed that those who did not go by the decision of the majority had difficulties in saying their right answers. Some were even embarrassed to say their answers. A percentage of his subjects yielded to the majority and gave out wrong answers. In his subsequent experiment, Asch opted to use an obstruction from the majority who could deviate from the decision of the majority who were instructed to be wrong. This changed the outcome of the experiment since it helped the subjects to give their answer in confidence. The percentage of those who followed the decision of the majority reduced when a person of a right answer was included in the group. Increased pressure had a direct influence on the decisions of the subjects. However, the effects are observed to a limited extend (Asch 1-3).

Social pressure is controlling decision making in the society. Individuals need to carry out consensus at a personal level and follow their decisions, regardless of the majority. 

The Stanford Prison Experiment

Philip Zimbardo, a classmate of Stanley Milgram, designed the Stanford Prison Experiment. In his experiment, Zimbardo designed a prison situation that enabled him observe the effect of position and unfamiliar conditions on ones character. Variables such as power and freedom have much impact on one’s normal behavior. It is, therefore, necessary to consider the position and other situations when observing ones characters and behaviors in the society.

Power has significant impacts on deteriorating one’s behavior. In his experiment, Zimbardo designed a prison that had prison wardens and prisoners. He placed them in a prison environment and observed their characters through video cameras situated at focal points of the cells. He observed that those who were acting as prison wardens began to exercise behaviors that were not part of their normal life. Such characters included abusive language and extreme authority. This implied that position has influence on ones behavior. A powerful position increases one’s negative behaviors while a powerless position increases ones positive behaviors.

Situations that an individual finds him in have also an impact on his behaviors. Zimbardo observed that those who acted as prisoners showed extreme signs of depression and stress. Some were crying in the cells due to the conditions of the prison. The situation they were facing did not allow them to present their actual character of resilience and courage amid their awareness of the situation (Cherry 1).

Noteworthy, Zimbardo’s experiment lacked the moral ethics that an experiment ought to fulfill. It involved subjection of participants into extreme conditions that did not match the conditions of a real prison. However, the experiment successfully showed that how situations contribute substantially towards character and behavior.

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