Social Issues: Understanding Opinions and Group Pressure by Solomon E. Asch | Free Essay Example

Social Issues: Understanding Opinions and Group Pressure by Solomon E. Asch

Words: 1716
Topic: Sociology
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Central Argument

Human beings are social creatures by nature. It is noted that most of their behavioral traits are attributed to their social disposition. For example, their actions are shaped and determined by the expectations of the groups to which they belong. Their acts are also informed by the social roles assigned to them. Many studies have been conducted to examine how socialization affects human behavior.

The findings from these studies explain various attributes of traditional and modern societies. Jean-Martin Charcot, A.A. Liebault, and Hippolyte Bernheim are some of the social scientists who have studied this phenomenon since the late 19th century.

For years now, sociologists and other social scientists have made efforts to establish the relationship between various social elements and the judgments, practices, and belief systems associated with human beings at the individual and collective levels.

For example, it has been established that children acquire their native dialect quite easily. They are effectively integrated into the society within which they are born. Members of tribal groups also accept the beliefs of their social institutions regardless of whether they favor them or not.

The scenario highlighted above is a classic example of what social scientists regard as the profound effects that social groups have on their members. The situation raises a number of questions aimed at understanding the extent of the impacts of these groups on the individual. For example, some social scientists have queried how social forces affect or constrain the attitudes and opinions held by members of a given social entity.

There are different types of groups in society. They include, among others, political parties, family institutions, and sports clubs. An individual may belong to more than one of these establishments. The clusters are defined by a set of belief systems and values. Members have to subscribe to these ideologies for them to exist effectively within the groups.

Today, the issues highlighted above have raised concerns about the possibility of deliberate manipulation of opinion and engineering of consent. Jean-Martin Charcot, through their works in hypnosis, has conducted studies aimed at answering some of these questions. Their results include the fact that hypnosis works effectively only on hysterical people. However, the findings by Jean were later disputed by other scholars like A.A.

Le Ribault and Hippolyte Bernheim. The latter two established that anyone can be subjected to hypnosis. Social thinkers used these discoveries in an attempt to understand the social nature of human beings. The social scholars were interested in finding out more about the formation of opinions and development of crowds. The scholars also sought to establish how and why people follow their leaders.

Research Methods and Variables

In chapter 17 of the article titled “Opinions and Group Pressure”, Solomon E. Asch details a study carried out to establish the effects of group pressure on human behavior and character. A number of variables are discernible in the study. The dependent variables, in this case, include human character and behavior. The independent variables involve socialization, group pressure, and social influence.

The research method used in the research entails experiments carried out on college students used as subjects. The participants were requested to express their opinions and preferences with regards to a set of issues identified by the researchers.

They were later asked to revise their selections after they were informed about the opinions of other large groups of peers and figures of authority. It was found that a significant number of the participants changed their judgments and opinions when confronted with preferences that were contrary to their own. They altered their perceptions in favor of either the majority group or the people in power.

The author of this article uses these experiments to highlight the nature of human behavior in general. The researcher analyzes the various experiments conducted and the implications of the findings made. The scholar amends their own findings and conclusions with regards to human behavior and how it is influenced by group pressure and opinion.

Other variables in the research include the opinions of leaders and majority groups. It is important to note at this juncture that a number of assumptions were made in these experiments.

For example, it was assumed that people will give in to external manipulations through suggestions in a painless and non-critical way. In addition, the researchers presupposed that any value or idea can be ‘sold’ or ‘unsold’ to the individual without any references to the merits associated with it.

Data Analysis

Solomon E. Asch identifies a number of factors that affect the decisions made by subjects in the final study. The series of studies reveal that these factors significantly affect the ability of the individual to make decisions when under pressure from their social grouping.

The first factor is the ability to make the right decision. There were situations where group or leadership pressure was not applied on the subjects in the studies. Under such circumstances, the participants recorded a 99.9 percent success rate in choosing the right answer. The 0.1 percent error was as a result of poor vision or photo illusions.

What this means is that in most cases, human beings are in a position to make the right decisions pertaining to certain matters. They can make these decisions in the absence of interferences from external peer groups and revered leaders and authority figures.

The observation is a confirmation of the fact that social groupings and socialization, to a great extent, affect the opinions formed by human beings. The pressure exerted on the individual by the two elements (socialization and social groupings) impact on their decision making abilities.

The second factor is the role played by leadership figures in the development of opinions and modification of pre-established decisions. The author of the article uses the findings made in earlier experiments to establish the relationship between leadership ideals and decision making among subjects. It is a fact that most individuals hold an opinion with regards to a particular topic, issue, or matter.

However, the realization that a particular leader holds a different opinion prompts many people to change their perceptions. The shifts in opinions are apparent in spite of the fact that the original belief systems may have been correct.

The author looks into the idea of attitudes and other social elements in an attempt to explain differences in political ideologies. They also aim at understanding social and political uprisings and crowd behavior.

Their efforts build on the assumption that an idea will be accepted by the individual provided that it is ‘pitched’ in a way that is preferred by the intended target. In light of this, leaders frame their ideologies and try to convince people to buy them. On their part, the target audience accepts and owns the ideas, turning into followers in the process.

The third factor explored by the author is the role played by peer groups in shaping the opinions and decision making processes among human beings. A number of features stand out in the tests analyzed by the researcher. For example, social entities influence the way people think.

The groups also affect how individuals form opinions and make decisions in life. The pressure associated with a particular social establishment sways human opinion even in cases where there is no apparent reason to change.

The author views the issue of social assemblies and the formation of perceptions in four different ways. First, there is the unanimous group pressure.

In this case, the majority has the wrong answer or opinion. In the latest study, subjects had a 63.2 percent chance of giving the correct answer when subjected to pressure from such a group. The remaining 36.8 percent were likely to give the wrong answer in an attempt to conform to the undisputed decision of the peer establishment.

The second involves a scenario where subjects are faced with ‘less than unanimous social pressure’. In this scenario, the supporting partner gives the correct answer. The author reports that there is a probability that 91.8 percent of the respondents will give the correct answer. However, 9.2 percent of the subjects still give the wrong response.

The third scenario is when the individual is faced by a less than unanimous form of demand. The supporting cohort here gives a ‘nearly correct’ answer. In such a setting, 87.7 percent of the subjects are likely to give the correct response. The remaining 12.3 percent will be wrong.

Fourth, the individual may encounter a less than unanimous group pressure where the supporting partner gives a wrong answer. In this case, 91.0 percent of the respondents are likely to give the right responses. The other 9.0 percent give wrong answers.

Conclusion

Human behavior, opinion, and decision-making are significantly influenced by socialization. Group pressure and leadership also play a big role in the development of character and making of judgments.

In this chapter, the author explores a number of studies carried out by social scientists in an attempt to test the hypothesis set out. In the end, the relationship between group pressure and opinion is brought out quite clearly. It is made clear that the demands placed by social groups on individuals impact on decision making.

Evaluation

The relationship between group pressure and opinion is clearly brought out in this chapter. However, the evidence provided by the author is insufficient since it does not include data from different age groups. It is possible that people from varying age brackets respond to social demands differently.

The sample population is made up of college students only. As such, the experiment may have failed to establish the relationship between group pressure and opinion among different age groups.

Similarly, the author does not take into consideration the level of education as a factor that could affect the established link between group demands an opinion. The omission is made in spite of the fact that studies have established how education affects decision making among human beings. It also impacts on individual opinions. Education may also impact on how people respond to group demands.

It is obvious that the author has done a great job in establishing the link between group pressure and opinion. However, they should have introduced age and educational levels as variables in the study. The inclusion of these two elements would have enhanced their understanding of the established relationship on a large scale.