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Dutchess_III's avatar

Do you personally know of anyone who would deny their senses to fit in with the majority?

Asked by Dutchess_III (26901 points ) January 15th, 2014

When I was in college I was walking through the psych building. Some students were recruiting others for a psychology experiment. I signed up in a heart beat. I was all of 18 years old, out on my own for the first time, trusting as a baby in the big bad world. It was all an adventure to me, and I was expecting to be answering some questions and stuff. That’s what they told me anyway, so I was totally unprepared for what actually happened.

The scene was this: Big round table, about 5 people, plus me, sitting around the table. I was told that we were all strangers to one another, picked at random the way I had been picked.

The first guy, the one putting on the experiment, picked up a piece of blue paper and said some stuff concluding with, “So before we begin I’ll pass around this yellow paper and I want you all to sign your names.” (There was a little more to it than that so that his comment made sense in the context, but I forget exactly what he said…)
Then he passed it around and people started signing. I said, “But that paper isn’t yellow!” (Sucker me!!)
Where upon the debate began. “What you you mean it’s not yellow? Of course it’s yellow!”
And as the paper went around each person concurred that it was yellow and they’d sign it. These were supposed strangers to each other….

I’m staring at these people like they’re nuts. The paper was BLUE. I was starting to feel a little nervous because they were so natural, sincere and convincing, and I had no idea I was actually IN the experiment, and I began to worry that I was locked in a room with crazy people. (I’d probably see right through the ‘acting’ today, but this was long ago.)

Finally the paper gets to me. I looked at it long and hard and finally said, “Ya’ll are crazy. It’s blue. And I’m not signing it.”
All five started arguing with me over the color. It was a fine job of acting on their part, and really had me kind of shook up but I held my ground.

When I stood up to flat walk out, angry and confused, that’s when the experimenter called time out. Well the paper WAS blue, of course, and that WAS the experiment. I just didn’t know it. The purpose was to see how many people would deny their own senses in order to side with the majority. They told me I’d be surprised how many people did just that.

Do you know of anyone who would deny their own senses like that?

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26 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

Many very famous experiments on the power of perceived authority and obedience, including the most notorious…the so-called Nazi Experiments by Stanley Milgram.

He did more than one…there were many versions so calling an experiement was incorrect. Most of the subjects went along with the apparent willingness to torture the so-calleld patient.

gailcalled's avatar

edit: ” versions, so calling it an…”

Kropotkin's avatar

It’s a variation on the Asch conformity experiments.

” They told me I’d be surprised how many people did just that.”

And did you ask how many?

I don’t know anyone who might be so conformist. I can imagine various different motivations and interpretations for why anyone would. If I felt I was in a room full of crazy people, I might be inclined to just agree with them to avoid any hassle—and then later tell my friends about the bunch of crazy people I met.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Kropotkin I like to conform to a degree, but I also treasure my quirks. I may be susceptible to that. Any online?

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Really? They would look at a blue paper and concur that it was yellow? How weird! Perhaps all the others in the group were given that cue ahead of time, to see if the odd one out (you) would agree. To answer your question, no, I don’t know of a single person who would do that.

However, it would be a much more interesting experiment if they did it my way – tell everyone ahead of time except one, and see what the lone voice of reason does.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@all Interesting

Nearly 75 percent of the participants in the conformity experiments went along with the rest of the group at least one time. After combining the trials, the results indicated that participants conformed to the incorrect group answer approximately one-third of the time.

http://psychology.about.com/od/classicpsychologystudies/p/conformity.htm

JimTurner's avatar

When I was young the principle at my school told my mother I was a leader and not a follower. My mom thought this was great. Then my teacher told me as a leader I had a responsibility to do the right thing because people naturally look up to me. So for many years I’ve become a loner and I still am at times.

I don’t care what the majority does when they stand that is my cue to sit down.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Kropotkin, this was in 1976. I was just barely 18. No I did not ask how many did say that it was yellow. My research and verification skills weren’t all that well developed because I hadn’t spent enough time on Fluther yet.

@Skaggfacemutt I’m sorry if I didn’t make myself clear. They WERE all in on it, but they told me they weren’t to throw me off. The lone voice of reason here just damn near walked out on the looney toons!

@JimTurner, you said, “I don’t care what the majority does when they stand that is my cue to sit down.” And what does that mean, exactly?

JimTurner's avatar

@Dutchess_III It means I always follow my own instincts.

josie's avatar

It wasn’t about denying your senses. You never talked yourself into thinking it was yellow. It was just to see what you would do. Sort of like the Kobyashi Maru in Star Trek.

Dutchess_III's avatar

So you’re not saying that every time the majority stands up you sit down @JimTurner? Just checking.

Didn’t know how else to word the question, @josie.

JimTurner's avatar

@Dutchess_III No but I have to come to my own conclusions about what is the best way to handle a situation. I trust that my decision will be the best weighing all the facts given to me. I refuse to just tag along blind on anything.

Jonesn4burgers's avatar

I think a lot of people don’t believe they would, but if there would respond differently. I have seen in regular life so many people catching a ride on the popular train without really looking at with what they agree.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Jonesn4burgers Yes. Exactly. It’s not as blatant as saying “OK, it’s yellow,” just because the majority does, but it’s still there. Josie just asked a question that falls right in line with that.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Oh, I get it now. Ha-ha! Thank goodness, I thought that a whole group of people would agree, just because the leader said it was yellow. What a bunch of sheep. So, that is an interesting experiment. I would have gotten all bent out of shape, too.

We see this effect in society all the time; politics, religion, members of the jury. I don’t think that it’s so much conforming to the majority so as not to stand out, as it is that some people doubt their own conclusions and trust others to be better educated or better informed than they are.

Dutchess_III's avatar

OK @JimTurner. I do the same thing (and have gotten fired a couple of times over it :( )

JimTurner's avatar

@Dutchess_III Sorry to hear that.

I’ve learned that I am this way by nature which at times put’s me at odds with everybody else.

I have learned over the years that it is better to bend than to break.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yeah, but there are people out there who would rather see you break and conform than to just bend, because they might have to change their way of thinking just a little. Oh well. Different story.

JimTurner's avatar

@Dutchess_III Stay in touch with the ones who really care about you the most and want what is best for you. They understand who you are and will make sure that you don’t work against yourself.

dxs's avatar

My US History II teacher (great man) did this in our class when were learning about conformity the 1950s.
One day, he asked someone to get some papers that he left from his classroom. While the kid was gone, he explained to us how we’re going to perform the conformity experiment. What happened was, we would take this multiple choice (ABCD) quiz question by question, and we would go around the room saying out loud the letter we thought was the correct answer. The questions would be simple history knowledge. The last question was going to be “Who is our current president?” and he told everyone to pick C. George Bush instead of B. Barack Obama. So when that question came up, he went down the rows and everyone started answering “C”. At first, the kid that left the room looked really confused, but when they got to him, he quietly answered “C”.
Good for you, though, @Dutchess_III, for not conforming.

kess's avatar

How about most accept that others thought that the blue paper was yellow so that they can move on to the more important part of the experiment, rather than haggling over the colour of a stupid piece of paper?

Dutchess_III's avatar

That would not be a couple of my previous bosses @JimTurner.

Seriously @dxs? That’s kind of sad…really. I mean, in a HS setting, to set him up in front of the whole room. At least in college I got to volunteer and was prepared.

@kess…read the details or at least some of the other answers. That WAS the experiment. I was the lone guinea pig.

flutherother's avatar

It is like doublethink in 1984 where 2+2=5.

Pandora's avatar

I’m a smart ass. I probably would’ve signed it with xxx’s after asking where is the yellow paper and did they mean to sign the blue paper. When they would say that it wasn’t my signature, I would’ve told them it very much is my signature on the yellow paper. Back in college and High School, I was always battling with some teacher, dean or principal.
Today I would sign it only after reading what it says. I don’t just sign anything. I have to know exactly what I am signing. The color would just make me wonder if they switched papers and are trying to trick me into signing something that could be trouble for me later.
I’m sure others did it just to get to the next part. There is also the possibility that some may have been color blind.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@Pandora Ha-ha! You sound like my kind of person. :)

SavoirFaire's avatar

One of the things I find fascinating about these experiments is how a single defector from the groupthink can help the actual experimental subject give the answer they know is correct. I had a psychology professor who, after teaching us about the Asch conformity experiments, exhorted us to “be the ally; be the confederate—someone needs you.” The passion with which he said that has always stuck with me.

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