If you assume that you understand why you think and act the way you do, you’re probably wrong.
Decades of psychological research suggest that people behave in ways that are mysterious and perplexing — even to themselves.
We sifted through the Quora thread, “What are some mind-blowing facts about social psychology?” and pulled out the most fascinating findings. (Some fall outside the realms of social psychology, but we thought they were worth including.)
Read on to find out why we label other people jerks and ourselves victims of circumstance; why powerful people are messier eaters; and why we’d rather give ourselves electric shocks than sit alone for 15 minutes (seriously).
1) We often subscribe to the majority opinion, even when it’s obvious the majority is wrong.
‘People often go to surprising lengths to conform to the majority opinion,’ writes Quora user Leo Polovets, referring to an experiment conducted by psychologist Solomon Asch.
Back in the 1950s, Asch designed an experiment in which participants saw three lines and were asked to say which one was longest. One line was clearly longer than the others.
In each iteration of the experiment, just one participant was surrounded by a group of confederates, who all reported that one of the shorter lines was longest. Sure enough, three-quarters of participants agreed with the rest of the group at least once.
In 2005, psychiatrist and neuroscientist Gregory Berns replicated the experiment and found similar results. Berns also scanned participants’ brains while the experiment was going on and determined that group pressure actually caused people to change their perception of reality, while disagreeing with the group caused people to experience emotional discomfort.