Philosophy Dictionary of Arguments

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Haslam I 85
Majorities/conformity/Asch: in his line-judgment studies (Asch 1952(1); 1955(2)) the participant finds himself within a group of others [who are no real participants but assistants to the experimenter, which the participant does not know]. Cards with lines of different lengths are shown and the group is asked to judge whether the lines are equal or different in length. After a while all of the group except the real participant judge in a obviously wrong way.
Situation: The individual comes to experience a world that he shares with others. He perceives that the surroundings include him, as well as others, and that he is in the same relation to the surroundings as others. He notes that he, as well as others, is converging upon the same object and responding to its identical properties. Joint action and mutual understanding require this relation of intelligibility and structural simplicity. In these terms, the ‘pull’ toward the group becomes understandable. (Asch 1952(1): p. 484).
Majority: giving in to majority pressure is not an act of indifference or mindlessness. Quite the opposite: it shows that individuals are mindful of the views of others around them. It shows that they are interested in maintaining harmony within the group and willing to go along with what others think is right. This is important because it is precisely through the acceptance of social influence from others that groups are able to function effectively and maintain cohesion.
Haslam I 86
Social identity: This analysis is consistent with theorizing within the social identity tradition whereby conformity, and social influence more generally, are seen as originating in the need of people to reach agreement with others perceived to be interchangeable in respect of relevant attributes (psychological ingroup members in the given situation) in order to validate their responses as correct, appropriate and desirable. (Hogg and Turner, 1987(3): p. 150)
World Views: when surrounded by members of the same group who undergo the same experience as oneself, those others become valid sources of information that tell us how to interpret the world (Turner, 1991)(4). In this view, rather than an irrational force that makes people blurt out responses that are obviously wrong, conformity in the Asch line-judgment experiments appears to be an entirely appropriate response.
Asch: Asch puts it even more strongly when he says: ‘The group is part of the given conditions. Not to take it into account, not to allow oneself to be in any way affected by it, would be willful’ (1952(1): p. 484).


1. Asch, S.E. (1952) Social Psychology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.
2. Asch, S.E. (1955) ‘Opinions and social pressure’, Scientific American, 193: 31–5.
3. Hogg, M.A. and Turner, J.C. (1987) ‘Social identity and conformity: A theory of referent informational influence’, in W. Doise and S. Moscovici (eds), Current Issues in European Social Psychology, Vol. 2. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 139–82.
4. Turner, J.C. (1991) Social Influence. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.


Matthew J. Hornsey and Jolanda Jetten, “Conformity. Revisiting Asch’s line-judgment studies”, in: Joanne R. Smith and S. Alexander Haslam (eds.) 2017. Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies. London: Sage Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Asch, Solomon E.
Haslam I
S. Alexander Haslam
Joanne R. Smith
Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2017


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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2020-09-21
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