When Penn State beats Ohio State a few weeks ago, everyone in state college was excited beyond belief. I was one of the student who was downtown in the aftermath. I saw the horse cops. However, the day after it turns out the students had done considerable damage to downtown State College. I began to wonder why do people riot anyway? Are people really that susceptible to conforming to the majority?

A study don’t by psychologist Solomon Asch sought out to test this. The study was to see just how often people will do something just because those around them are also doing it. The hypothesis was that, people will more likely conform to a wrong answer given by the whole, than choose what they believe is the right answer. The null hypothesis would be if people didn’t change their answer based on the the groups answer.

The study was arranged so that participants were placed in a room with other people. Only the other people were not participants, but pretending to be. The whole room was shown a picture of three lines, labeled a, b, and c. The researchers told the room to look at the lines and decide which one of the longest. The actors were instructed to pick the answer he was not correct. The goal was to see that if everyone around the participant chose wrong, would he do so himself. Asch found that 75% of people chose the groups answer instead of their own answer. The study also determined that the higher the number of actors there were, the more likely the participant would be swayed.


This experiment may give an explanation to why people do things ever if they know it is wrong. Like with state college for example. Everyone and their mother went down to beaver canyon after the game. Some people who may  have not even wanted to go went, just because of the mass amount of people doing it.

Another experiment showed just how easy it is to mass hoards of large people.  The study showed that in a group of 200 people, five percent of people were able to change their direction. People were told where to try and direct they crowd just be looking like they knew where they were going. 95% of people followed them blindly.

So the power of group mentality and conformity is very strong. Maybe in order to prevent the destruction in the future the students could have a place to go where they can celebrate that is legal.





6 thoughts on “Conformity

  1. Bradd Anthony Dent

    Playing devil’s advocate, have you considered the positive effects of conformity and mob mentality? Although humans do not have as many threats now, being able to quickly come together and effectively eliminate dangers is what may have gotten us out of trees, in a manner of speaking. I do fully support individuality as a virtue, but still consider the cities, medicine, and technology people have created by following the crowd.

  2. Michael Curran

    I find this very intriguing. Humans are social creatures, and that being said, do tend to flock towards the formation of in groups and out groups, and have a natural desire to want to be a part of the pack, so to speak. As real as mob mentality is, it is a shame to see people behave in a way they wouldn’t normally on their own. Perhaps looking at or trying to measure the societal peer pressure an individual faces against the mob as a whole, and that could reflect how people so freely let go of control.

  3. Theodore Andrew Ochieng

    I liked the simplicity of the experiment that Solomon Asch designed. I do think that a possible mechanism for why we are so quick to conform to groups is because of our need to belong. With the rise of social media you can see this phenomenon on places like Twitter where people mob up around a particular person or event. I do think it will be interesting to see if there are ways you can make people less likely to conform.

  4. Darcy Pacheco

    I found your post to be very interesting. Social conformity is something that in unavoidable in today’s world. The concept of group mentality can easily manipulate and overshadow one’s initial thoughts and ideas to give way to the majority. There is also the concept of peer pressure that goes along with conformity; if enough people pressure you to go through with something the you might just give in. One reason that people do conform to other people’s standards and expectations is due to our fear of how people might perceive someone. If you click on the following link, information about a study pertaining to people’s fear of other people’s perception will give way to conformity:

  5. Sarah Tarczewski

    Mob mentality is an extremely detrimental thing. The riots after Ohio State were fun to watch, but the reality is they cost the community about $30,000 in damages. I found it pretty reprehensible for students to destroy the community they live in, especially when our relationship with the townspeople is shaky at best, so I’m glad you brought this situation up. I looked a little further into mob mentality and found an article you may be interested in. It talks about the suppression of moral codes when in a group setting.

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