Solomon Asch 2021-01-14 01:11:29

Sometimes it's doubt, not bad vision, that gets in the way of us seeing things clearly.

In 1951 Psychologist Solomon Asch conducted a study involving a participant sitting in a room with confederates — people purporting to be a part of the study but who were actually working for Asch — to take a vision test.

The task was to look at a reference line (left box) and then pick out the line from a set of 3 (right box) that best matches the height of the reference line.

Credit: Wikipedia

When left to our own devices, the matching line is obvious to our eyes. In the control group, where participants were asked to to write down which choice matched the reference line, 99% correctly identified the matching line.

In the experimental condition, where Asch instructed the confederates to unanimously state aloud the same incorrect answer (‘A’ or ‘B’), we didn’t see quite as well anymore. Under these conditions 75% of the participants picked the same incorrect option as the confederates at least once. Knowing we’re of the overwhelming minority opinion, it turns out, is really good at getting us to get in line and join the crowds.

We are all susceptible to being dissuaded from the vision we have of the world simply because it’s not widely shared. Different can be scary, being in the minority can be scary.

But it doesn’t mean we’re wrong.

Some of the best ideas we embrace today started as unpopular ideas: The British Parliament committee thought lightbulbs were a sham, in 1890 the Washington Post called bicycles a ‘hot fad’, and in 1985 the New York Times reported that laptops were well on their way out.

Big changes, the kind that create a fundamental shift in our culture, will sometimes require that we believe in and brave the path forward that we see even when no one else sees it.

Replies to Solomon Asch

William Liao

The hook

I find this group/mob/peer pressure psychology fascinating. Too many things that go wrong in history is often blamed on this and I am curious to learn the why. 
2021-01-14 01:50:53
I remember reading this study as I learned a about psychology. I find it interesting  how the conversations, thoughts, and relationships could play out afterward. If you stuck to your guns, about which you thought was correct, all it would take is a simple measurement with a device everybody could agree was calibrated for measuring correctly. However, if you fell in with the crowd, it could show a degree of humility whereby the now incorrect response could be offered up as, well, group harmony is more important than winning every battle. 
2021-01-14 06:19:28
haha, indeed! There are a couple of theories re: this particular study that I'm familiar with. 

#1) Being in the minority genuinely convinces us that we are wrong and that we need to change our mind. 
#2) We may have inklings that we're right, or at least onto something more valuable than people give credit it, but we change our mind anyways to avoid social conflict and being kicked out of the tribe. 

The mass disillusionment that leads the unbelievable concerted efforts of insanity that we see is probably a combination of the two + people who really believe radical/decidedly harmful ideas. This is where I'm reminded of Daniel Kahneman & Amos Tversky's work - we seldom make decisions on the basis of hard facts, but how *good* the story is. 
2021-01-14 14:47:13

Yes, I think group harmony is very much a primal incentive and could service as a basis for why humans behaved the way they did in this study. 
2021-01-14 14:48:31
This is one of my favorite psych studies. And usually I used it to justify whatever contrarion convictions I'd been peddling at the time. However I've never looked at this study from the context that @brian just mentioned.

@keni with bitcoin do you mean that people jumping on it are the majority? Or the minority?
2021-01-14 17:00:52
I was referring to this part -
"Big changes, the kind that create a fundamental shift in our culture, will sometimes require that we believe in and brave the path forward that we see even when no one else sees it."

Bitcoin is a big change that creates a fundamental shift in the currency sector even though it is less than 1% of the world that sees that right now. So it is minority for now but hopefully the majority soon. 
2021-01-14 17:08:12
I feel like attributing this shift to BItcoin is dangerous. Crypto and DecentralizedFinance is the very new change and it is I think a poor bet to think that Bitcoin will be the defacto one that wins.

It'd be like if you went back to the 1600's and told people it's countries with guns that will rule the world. But you wouldn't bet on the first country with a gun. You would've never guessed that the U.S would take over by the 20th century then.

The greatest strength of Crypto and De-Fi is that it's decentralized so it actually makes Bitcoin vulnerable in the long run.
2021-01-14 17:11:22
I like where this conversation went -- i.e. to Bitcoin. Abe, great analogy with the guns. What bitcoing is experiencing is a high from being the word that has been repeated the most -- and so people know it like they know Fedex or Kleenex. But, what you're saying about it being decentralized is interesting as well. 

The popularity of Bitcoin makes it a play for the people who know how to get in, hype it up, then take a profit. Of course, because of the activity, maybe it's a fine place to get in and hodl.
2021-01-14 18:23:12