Power of the Mass Mind

July 14, 2010 |  by

How powerful is mass mind?

Solomon Asch found out in 1956, in a series of “conformity experiments” at Swarthmore College. In one test, students were shown cards with lines of different lengths. All students except for one were “in on the fix” – they agreed beforehand to claim that two uneven lines were actually the same size – to test the reaction of the one “innocent” student.

Bloom writes in Global Brain:

Then a white-coated psychologist passed the cards around. One by one he asked the pre-drilled shills to announce out loud which lines were alike. Each dutifully declared that two lines of preposterously different length, a long line and a short line, were the same. By the time the scientist prodded the unsuspecting newcomer to pronounce judgment, he usually went along with the bogus consensus of the crowd. In fact, a full 75 percent of the clueless experimental subjects bleated in chorus with the herd.

Some did it out of self-doubt. They were convinced that the facts their eyes reported were wrong, the herd was right, and that an optical illusion had tricked them into seeing things. Still others realized with total clarity which lines were identical but lacked the nerve to utter an unpopular opinion.

If it’s this hard to speak our minds in a classroom, what happens when it really counts? Just a reminder of what we’re up against..


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