Asch Solomon’s Experiment. A Word Of Encouragement For Truth-Seekers
Dear friends, I am very thankful to you for coming to the blog even though I haven’t contributed to it lately. You should believe me that my abandoning it for so long could happen only due to exceptional circumstances. And the circumstances were exceptional indeed.
My country has started a war against a brotherly Ukrainian nation and doesn’t admit it, defying all logic and evidence. My fellow citizens have fallen into a delirium, and don’t realize or notice it. The ruling regime breaks every law, but the majority of the population seems to be still in support of it and is ready to endure any hardship, thinking that the ones to blame for all the trouble are – you will never guess who – Americans (of all people).
The regime is tightening its grip over those who disagree and calls them ‘national traitors’ and very soon there will be a time when the ‘patriots’ will be given free hand to do away with those in dissent (the ‘fifth column’). So it seems that for some of us trouble is only starting here.
When the campaign against Ukrainians – some of whom are actually ethnic Russians – only began, it already cost me an accusation by a Russian MJ fan that I want our country to be destroyed by the US (!). I wondered how the US comes into this and whether Americans know that they are allegedly to blame for the whole thing?
I also wondered how a fan of Michael Jackson could be in support of a war. War, aggression and belligerence had nothing in common with a man like Michael whose very essence was peace, love and compassion.
Well, if this delirium goes on being friends with Americans will be a somewhat fishy business. The Russian regime expects its subjects to be anti-American, you know. However the paradox is that it is exactly now that I want to be critical of Americans least of all.
WHEN THE MAJORITY IS WRONG
Now that millions of my compatriots have fallen victim to the absurdest kind of lies I am no longer surprised or resentful that millions of Americans were also led to believe the nastiest lies about Michael Jackson. Previously I could not understand it. Now I do and even know which emotional strings were pulled in people’s hearts to make them turn on an innocent person as an enemy and villain.
Someone extremely cynical skillfully brainwashed and manipulated the public into hatred and ridicule of Michael taking advantage of the best feeling people have – their natural instinct to protect children. This basic protective function of all normal adults was taken advantage of and used as a tool to incite a witch-hunt against an innocent person while real abusers continued to commit crimes against children walking about unnoticed. The devilish organizers of the game simply nominated Michael for the role and cynically directed the public rage against the man who never deserved it.
In the same way our regime nominated Ukranians for the role of ‘fascists’ and raised a tide of noble anger among my compatriots who now sincerely think that our ‘heroic volunteers are liberating the neighboring country from the grips of neo-nazism’. And the majority is really imagining that they are only protecting the innocent. No joking – they really imagine it, and the genuineness of the feeling is where the whole problem is.
But is it possible to channel the fury of millions of people into a direction which is totally false?
Possible and very much so. All it needs is: 1) the idea 2) conductors of the orchestra 3) willing participants (media and others) to play the ‘right’ tune and beat it into people’s heads with a deafening noise. The success of the operation depends on the concerted effort of all players.
So yes, the hatred campaign against Michael Jackson was also an orchestrated effort, because only the unity of action on the part of all players can produce the desired unanimity effect on the targeted audience. Otherwise it won’t work.
Now that the same brainwashing campaign is raging in my country and it took just several months to turn the views of many people into their opposite, I can assert that the key factors to the ‘success’ of the operation is the totality and force of lies. When lies, half-truths and half-lies pour from every media outlet on a daily basis they are able to stamp out the last traces of doubt even if you were initially convinced of something different. As a result public opinion reaches a stage when everyone relies on all others thinking that “all of them can’t be wrong”.
In fact this is one of the favorite arguments of Michael’s haters, as if the opinion of the majority can be equivalent to proof of anyone’s guilt. So what if the majority doubted Michael’s innocence? The only thing it proves is that the majority was successfully led to believe lies about Jackson through an unprecedented campaign of slander, hate and disinformation.
Now we know that lots of allegations against Michael were obvious lies, often unrivaled in their absurdity – look, for example, at Tom Sneddon’s official timeline of Arvizo’s ‘molestation’ which claimed that the abuse took place after Bashir’s documentary with all its innuendoes. Tom Sneddon wanted us to believe that Michael Jackson, in his fear of being accused of child abuse, decided to commit the act right at the time when Neverland was in the center of everyone’s attention, including the media, police, D.A. Sneddon and Department for Family and Children Services? Nothing could be more idiotic and illogical, however it took the court half a year to finally understand the absurdity of the claim.
So the big question is – how does it happen that people start believing obvious lies? How can they fall into a mass delirium over things which are false to the point of being absurd?
Driven by my own motivation (amazement with my compatriots’ gullibility) I looked into the subject and came across a very interesting experiment conducted by an American psychologist in the 1950s among the students of American universities. The experiment provided irrefutable proof that under some circumstances 75% of the population side with a lie, though they know the truth, and their own eyes tell them that what they are saying is wrong.
SOLOMON ASCH’S EXPERIMENT
The text from http://www.age-of-the-sage.org/psychology/social/asch_conformity.html explains it all:
In 1951 social psychologist Solomon Asch devised an experiment to examine the extent to which pressure from other people could affect one’s perceptions.
He told them he was studying visual perception and that their task was to decide which of the bars on the right was the same length as the one on the left.
As you can see, the task is simple, and the correct answer is obvious.
Asch asked the students to give their answers aloud. He repeated the procedure with 18 sets of bars.
Only one student in each group was a real subject. All the others were confederates (i.e. actors) who had been instructed to give two correct answers and incorrect answers on the remaining ‘staged’ trials.
The first two answers were meant to put the subject of the experiment at ease and the experiment actually started with the third question when the confederates were instructed to give their first wrong answer. This was the beginning of a ‘staged’ trial.
Asch arranged for the real subject to be the next-to-the-last person in each group to announce his answer so that he would hear most of the confederates incorrect responses before giving his own.
Would he go along with the crowd?
To Asch’s surprise, 37 of the 50 subjects conformed themselves to the ‘obviously erroneous’ answers given by the other group members at least once.
So 75% of the subjects of the experiment sided with the majority though the answer they were giving was obviously erroneous. 25% of the subjects stood their ground, answered honestly and disagreed with the rest – but that was only one person out of four.
Asch was disturbed by these results:
“The tendency to conformity in our society is so strong that reasonably intelligent and well-meaning young people are willing to call white black. This is a matter of concern. It raises questions about our ways of education and about the values that guide our conduct.”
Why did the subjects conform so readily?
When they were interviewed after the experiment, most of them said that they did not really believe their conforming answers, but had gone along with the group for fear of being ridiculed or thought “peculiar.”
Some of the subjects indicated afterward that they assumed the rest of the people were correct and that their own perceptions were wrong.
Others knew they were correct but didn’t want to be different from the rest of the group.
Some even insisted they saw the line lengths as the majority claimed to see them.
Asch conducted a revised version of his experiment. When the subjects were permitted to write down their answers after hearing the answers of others, their level of conformity declined to about one third what it had been in the original experiment.
Apparently, people conform for two main reasons: because they want to be liked by the group and because they believe the group is better informed than they are.
The results of the experiment are astounding.
Three-fourths of all people (75%) are ready to support the erroneous opinion even when their own eyes tell them that the answer is wrong.
Incredible as it sounds, but in a situation of social pressure these people prefer not to believe their own eyes but agree with other people instead.
The result is indeed incredible but it does explain why people side with a lie – when everyone around them is of the same opinion, they want to conform, even though the view they support is obviously wrong.
The desire to conform is actually not that bad as it helps the society to maintain peace despite difference of opinion, but when it is done at the expense of the truth, conformity becomes a danger. It allows lies and force to dominate. And those who have access to manipulation of information and a possibility to exert pressure on the public, take advantage of people’s tendency to conform and thus turn themselves into the ones who are always right.
This is how the ‘majority’ can be artificially formed and the beauty of the method is that after people are subjected to massive brainwashing, even those of them who know the truth, voluntarily choose lies – just out of conformity with others. And the organizers of the show can say with a clear conscience that ‘the people decided on their own’.
So in respect of Michael Jackson it is now safe to conclude that the opinion of three-fourths of the population was formed by the unprecedented media lies spread for very many years by all media outlets and it was only the amount, pressure and ferocity of lies that differed depending on the media source.
In very many cases the audience went along with the lies even though their own observations of MJ did not support what they heard from others. Hundreds of people witnessed Michael’s interaction with children and never saw him do anything inappropriate to a child, but they thought that their knowledge was just a separate instance and they ‘didn’t know the whole truth’, so even despite their own positive experience some of them sided with the negative opinion of others.
“I haven’t seen anything myself, but I wasn’t there round-the-clock…” We heard it about Jackson a thousand times and instead of paying attention to the fact that thousands of people never saw anything bad, we were led to believe that their experience was inadequate because just several liars claimed something different and all the media talked about them only.
The impression that other people are ‘better informed’ if they are definite in their answer was actually one of the explanations given by the subjects of Asch’s experiment. Let us recall what other explanations were given by these people in justification of their lies.
EXCUSES FOR SIDING WITH LIES
1) Some said that they were not sure their perception was correct. If it isn’t another of their lies, this answer means that these people are not sure of themselves and even in the easiest of cases will doubt their ability to make correct judgment. In a dispute of two opponents they will side with each concurrently and will stay with the one who has the last say in the dispute. In a situation of choice between truth and lies these people will probably be hopeless.
2) Some honestly admitted that they knew the correct answer but didn’t want to look different or peculiar and were afraid that they would be ridiculed by the majority. These people do know the truth ‘in private’ but will not stand up for it in public. The comfort of being part of the social group is more important to them than the truth. The fact that they are able to give a correct answer in writing (when others don’t see what they say) shows that they side with a lie to save themselves from the embarrassment or fear to look ‘different’. This is a cowardly feature but typical of many of us, alas.
The word ‘peculiar’ for these conformists was surely a decisive factor in the case of Michael Jackson. Most humans don’t want to be regarded as peculiar and Michael did look that way. He turned from black to white, had plastic surgery and his nose raised so many questions that when these people were incited by the media to ridicule Jackson it was easy for them to go over from a relatively neutral word ‘peculiar’ to a totally shameless ‘wacko freak’. After all, if journalists allow themselves so insulting a language in their official papers, why should ordinary conformists check their tongues in private conversations?
Mind you that none of those journalists ever apologized for their language about Jackson, and all of them got away with their lies. And most of them were even rewarded for it. This prompts people to believe that lies are an innocent business and can be freely practiced – a horrible conclusion corrupting many souls.
3) As you also know some of the subjects taking part in Asch’s experiment conformed to the lies as they thought others to be ‘better informed’. Well, how can anyone be better informed about the length of three bars? If it is short it is short, if it is long it is long, and the third is a medium size and that’s it.
But if these conformists hesitated even in an easy case like that, how much more insolvable to them was the situation around Michael? Indeed, so many lies were told about him that to be able to learn some grain of truth one had to be doing individual research on a constant basis for 20 years or so. Of course it was much easier to go with the rest of the crowd and rely on those who were ‘better informed’. And the ‘better informed’ took their information from the media. And the media was mostly represented by characters like Diane Dimond and Nancy Grace – hence the public delirium around Michael as a result of all these factors.
4) But the most amazing finding of Asch’s experiment is that some subjects may be so stubborn that they insist that their answer was correct even when they are told that they were deliberately misinformed and the idea of the whole experiment was to test their ability to resist lies under the pressure of public opinion.
These people are evidently incapable of accepting their mistakes in principle. If they are right, they are right – even when they are wrong. They are probably so proud that when the experiment is over they will still never accept it as fact that they agreed to lie because of their cowardice and fear of rejection by the group. In their pride (or fear to be ridiculed) they will continue to call white black and vice versa even when it becomes completely ridiculous to deny the obvious.
Unfortunately it is exactly this bunch of people who are totally incapable of leaving Michael Jackson alone. No matter what facts of Michael’s innocence will be provided they will better ‘work’ on the facts and twist them inside out rather than admit that they were wrong. Truth is of no significance to these people – their boosted ego (or mental condition) demands that they should always be right, and in reaching this goal they will persist in any kind of lie.
HUMAN NATURE HOPELESS?
When Asch’s experiments continued and were made more elaborate, all of them confirmed the initial results. Now they are considered classic for the study of human conformity. Human nature does not change much and the opinion of different people in every new generation is generally formed along the same lines. Of course these days the requirements for conformity are not so strict as they were in the 1950s and freedom of thought has changed people’s reactions (in neutral situations).
However when we find ourselves under much public pressure or fear it is still difficult for people to decide whether to conform or stand up for the truth – should we support the colleague who speaks out against the boss’s obvious injustice or someone fighting the wrong done by the authorities? Especially when we are afraid that we may suffer for the truth told?
It is obvious that dilemmas like the above arise most often in a social environment with many wrongs (and many lies). Asch’s experiment has proven that when people are pressured by a mass of lies and many start repeating them, even in a situation of no danger for themselves 75% of the public will decide to conform. And when the fear factor also adds to it the number of conformists will invariably increase (incidentally, the number of conformists in my country is currently 85%).
So the higher the pressure is, the fewer are the doubters, and the bigger is the number of conformists, and the higher is the price of telling the truth – which by the way is very much true of the situation around Michael Jackson. The media pressure was enormous and only the staunchest of Michael’s supporters were able to resist. All the rest agreed with the ‘wrong’ answers and fell for the worst of lies, finding comfortable excuses for themselves – like ‘they were not fully informed’, for example.
As a result we have a huge trail of lies following Jackson and the restoration of truth is a very big job, which is also difficult as besides the sheer volume of work not every conformist will be ready to admit that he was wrong (see Asch’s results about it).
But if human nature is so weak and so susceptible to conformity, does truth have any chance to stand up to lies, especially when the pressure of lies is huge? Is there a hope?
It is amazing but Asch’s experiment is giving an answer to this question too.
THE CHANCES OF TRUTH
At some point Asch changed the rules of the experiment and permitted one of the confederates (i.e. actors) in the group to give correct answers to the questions. The correct answer was to be given before the turn of the real subject of the experiment to voice his opinion.
And it was found that this lone correct answer gave the real subjects of the experiment so much encouragement that the number of conformists among them fell by three-fourths. After hearing the truthful version from just one person, three people out of four began to give truthful answers and only one still agreed with the wrong opinion of the majority.
In other words when everyone lies the person feels so much pressure on himself that only the courageous few will stand by the truth, but if at least one person in a group says what he really thinks, the desire of others to conform decreases several times over. So what is extremely difficult for one person becomes much easier for the two of them.
When one other person in the group gave a different answer from the others, and the group answer was not unanimous, conformity dropped. Asch found that even the presence of just one confederate that goes against the majority choice can reduce conformity as much as 80%.
The subjects conformed much less if they had an “ally”. In some of his experiments, Asch instructed one of the confederates to give correct answers. In the presence of this nonconformist, the real subjects conformed only one fourth as much as they did in the original experiment.
There were several reasons: First, the real subject observed that the majority did not ridicule the dissenter for his answers. Second, the dissenter’s answers made the subject more certain that the majority was wrong. Third, the real subject now experienced social pressure from the dissenter as well as from the majority.
Many of the real subjects later reported that they wanted to be like their nonconformist partner (the similarity principle again).
Apparently, it is difficult to be a minority of one but not so difficult to be part of a minority of two.
Asch concluded that it is difficult to maintain that you see something when no one else does. The group pressure implied by the expressed opinion of other people can lead to modification and distortion effectively making you see almost anything.”
What a ‘fine’ conclusion which explains so many strange phenomena.
So if the pressure of lies is big enough, it is able to make people see almost anything. And they will readily conform with any kind of lie. And some of them with even believe that the lie imposed on them was actually true. And some will even insist on it – even when confronted by the real truth.
However the truthful position of just one person can crucially change the whole thing. And start a new chain reaction followed by many other similar chain reactions. And this is where the chances for the truth are.
All of it can be seen in the acted version of the experiment that was done in the 1970s. I highly recommend it – it is an interesting sight.
ASCH’S CONFORMITY EXPERIMENT
A WORD OF SUPPORT FOR TRUTH-SEEKERS
I hope that all of us understand that in a situation when so many people are ready to conform to even the craziest of lies, the voice of every truth-seeker is as precious as gold.
The first of them breaks the wall of lies and makes it much easier for the second, and the two of them are already a big force – they alone are capable to reduce the desire of others to comply with lies by as much as 80%. And every new truth-seeker starts a chain reaction of his own and this is probably how miracles happen.
Asch’s findings also give an exhaustive answer to a question whether it is necessary to speak up for Michael Jackson when we talk to complete liars. Liars will certainly not change their views – they actually have none as they just repeat what they are told, but the arguments of truth-seekers made in a public dispute (private discussion with a liar is a waste of time) will enormously help those who are observing the discussion from aside.
It doesn’t mean that these people will necessarily agree with the truth, but the pressure of lies on them will dramatically decrease and they will be able to at least think on their own.
Can the above study help us in the current situation with con artists like Robson and Safechuck who want to make a billion out of a new slander campaign against MJ? I think it can, as Asch’s research discloses a deep psychological discrepancy in their stories, making them even stranger than they are.
First of all Asch’s study helps us to understand why Robson needs Safechuck at all. Not only does he want to bolster his shaky case, but he also hopes for a chain reaction described above and wants to inspire others to play the role of ‘victims’ (for a good prize). So his search of allies is nothing unusual – without them his case would not stand a single chance, and this is why he hopes to recruit more scoundrels to take part in his enterprise.
What is totally unusual though is the timing of his ‘revelations’. Asch’s experiment on conformity in human behavior would suggest something totally different, and would even help to find the moment when Robson was telling the truth.
WHEN DID ROBSON TELL THE TRUTH?
We know from Asch’s classic study that when there is a wall of silence over the truth and everyone is telling lies, the one who wants to reveal the truth will be under so much pressure that in 75% cases he will not be able to disclose it. And if he is also afraid of having to pay for it in some way, the number of conformists (the ones who will put up with the obvious wrong) may probably increase to 100%.
In other words, in a situation when the victim of abuse has to go against the whole crowd and thinks that no one will believe him, and that he will only suffer more as a result of the revelation, most victims will keep their mouth shut (turning into conformists this way). This is actually what happened to victims of real abusers like Jimmy Savile. All of them were silent as it was easier for them to put up with the injury than overcome their fear and break the wall of social resistance they were facing.
And now imagine that there is no wall of resistance. And your offender is very vulnerable at the moment. He is actually on trial now and exactly on the same charge. The public is outraged and the media and prosecution are looking for every possibility to put the offender behind bars. Almost everyone is dreaming of locking him up for life and is in search of proof of his ‘crimes’ – so your revelations will be met with nothing less than an enthusiastic applause.
In a situation like this, when there is no pressure to keep silence and there is an opposite pressure – to speak up, even if you are the shyest of people you will take the opportunity to bring your offender to justice.
Especially since everyone is already looking at you and encourages you to talk, thinking that you are his victim anyway – whether you admit it or not. In the opinion of many it is an established fact, so it is not use denying and keeping it a secret any more.
Actually from the very start of it the authorities and media were beating into everyone’s heads that the man was a criminal – irrespective of what the future verdict said.
And if you are a real victim, how will you react to this open public invitation?
You will heave a sigh of relief, get the secret off your chest, turn over a new leaf in your life … and fall into the embrace of the grateful public. Every TV channel will aspire to your interview and Hollywood producers will compete for a chance to screen your life story. In your declining years you will write a book on “How you saved the nation from a predator” and at the final hour your name will find its place in the Hall of fame.
This was more or less the atmosphere of the Michael Jackson 2005 trial which made it the ideal time for Robson and Safechuck to speak out against Jackson. Both were grown-up people by then (in their mid-twenties) and if their silence and support for Michael in 1993 could be explained by the public by their young age, this time everyone was really waiting for them to contribute.
Needless to say that both were absolutely in no position of real child abuse victims who only by the age of thirty sometimes manage to summon enough courage to speak against their offenders – prosperous, famous, mighty, highly respectable and never doubted by the public or police.
And Robson didn’t even need to overcome the shame and indecision typical for the real victims as his ‘molestation’ was a matter of open discussion and no one would have been in the least surprised had he confirmed it.
As to Michael, he wasn’t powerful or respected at all. He was utterly humiliated and almost crushed by the two years of non-stop harassment that started after Bashir’s film. The court of public opinion had already sentenced him to be burnt in hell, so now the only thing that remained to be done was the final verdict which at the time was regarded by many as a mere formality.
You will agree that nothing could have been easier for Robson to tell his story then – especially since he says that he always remembered his ‘abuse’ and now insists that any talk of the repressed memory is out of the question.
But what did Robson do in 2005 instead of taking the matter off his chest?
From the point of view of Asch’s conformity studies he did an incredible thing – he went against the tide and testified about Michael’s innocence, getting a wail of disappointment from the public and bringing a lot of criticism upon his head. The public was still incredulous about what he and the other witnesses (Brett Barnes and McCaulay Culkin) said, and all the three were ostracized and made fun of for their friendship with Michael and the slumber parties they had.
Why was there so much ridicule? Because these three guys didn’t conform to people’s expectations. What they actually did was a totally non-conformist action as they voluntarily put themselves in a position of confrontation with the public, media and establishment.
And when now Robson claims that he was ‘coached’ by MJ he wants us to believe that he not only decided to speak for his ‘abuser’, but he also decided to confront the whole world and to his own detriment in the first place? Wasn’t it too much of a sacrifice – and what for???
And remember, when people have real inner conflicts to fight they don’t look so easy and relaxed as Robson did during the trial. If you read his testimony you will see that Robson was able to crack jokes and even express surprise at seeing some adult magazines in Michael’s possession. Genuine surprise, by the way.
Considering all these inner strings of human psychology we can assert in full confidence that if Robson had been a real victim, he would have testified against Jackson in 2005. If he had really had that secret, he would have surely taken the chance to relieve himself of the burden, especially since going with the tide was exceptionally easy and convenient for him at that moment. The establishment, media and crowd would have put him on a pedestal for ‘helping the justice’ and would have turned him into a hero ‘saving the planet from a terrible villain’.
However Robson chose the hardest of roads and told the innocent truth. He behaved like those rare non-conformists unwilling to side with the lie even despite the utmost pressure, and was brave enough to say ‘no’ in the face of the crowd which was prompting him in chorus to say ‘yes’.
Moreover, using the terms of Asch’s experiment, by sticking to the unpopular truth Robson, Barnes and Culkin put themselves in the danger of ‘falling out of the social group’ and looking ‘peculiar’ in the eyes of the majority.
So it was quite a feat on their part. And such a feat is possible only when people are sure of what they say and are ready to part even with all their conformity in order to fight for the truth. And this is a very rare occurrence as you remember.
Even when people have nothing to lose, in a situation of heavy public pressure they usually go along with the majority even though they know that it is wrong. And these three guys had a lot to lose by speaking in support of Jackson, in terms of their reputation, comfort and peace of mind – and nothing to acquire (except the ridicule of disbelieving public).
Imagine yourself in their place and you will understand that only those who were absolutely sure of Michael’s innocence were capable of so non-conformist an action.
This makes the words of support for Michael from Culkin, Barnes and Robson really precious and unique. And true too, because they passed the test of going against the trend and did it at a moment when telling the truth was hard (and telling a lie was easy). If you look for the analogy they behaved like that bespectacled guy in Solomon Asch’s experiment who gave correct answers in all the tests irrespective of what others said, insisting that “he has to call them as he sees them“.
What happened to Wade Robson afterwards is a different story. It is quite possible that he didn’t cope with the consequences of his then decision and could not withstand the repercussions that followed. I don’t know which form these repercussions took, but I do know that the society doesn’t like those who go against the trend because it makes it feel so much inferior to them. Look at the disgraceful way they are still treating McCaulay Culkin and you will realize that the lying majority is envious of the courageous few who are able to stand for the truth, and always looks for a way to sting them.
However even they might one day feel that lies are already becoming a life-threatening phenomenon – too many people see lies as a necessity now and teach others to conform, and this makes the society cynical and corrupt. In moments like these truth becomes an especially precious commodity.
So let us not lose heart and let’s keep going, and hope that one day truth will prevail over lies.
And now that we know that every new truth-seeker is able to start a chain reaction of cleaning the social environment, it does give some encouragement, doesn’t it?
Each of us counts!
Happy New Year, guys.