The Asch experiment


It is amusing, perhaps slightly disturbing, that one can so easily fall into accepting and following the “dominant reality”. What this clip doesn’t show is that Asch went on to discover something equally important. Yes, people are willing to ignore their own views and go with the flow, but they are also very easily convinced to swim against the stream. This was demonstrated in another series of experiments in which an actor was used to defy the crowd – showing that if just one person acts sensibly (but against the norm) that is enough to make people eager to express their true thoughts.

Surowiecki, an American journalist, concludes that “ultimately, diversity contributes not just by adding different perspectives to the group but also by making it easier for individuals to say what they really think. […] Independence of opinion is both a crucial ingredient in collectively wise decisions and one of the hardest things to keep intact. Because diversity helps preserve that independence, it’s hard to have a collectively wise group without it.”




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