I read about an experiment conducted on some teenage children to study the effects of peer pressure. The experiment was set up to see whether or not the young person would run with the crowd, even when they knew it was wrong to do so, or whether they would dare to be different and make a stand for what was right. This is what happened:

Some examiners staged an exercise in a school with a group of ten teenagers to, supposedly, test their eyesight. The examiners told the whole group that they would hold up some cards with three lines on them: lines A, B and C and each line would be of different length. All the students had to do was to raise their hand when the examiner pointed to the longest line. However, beforehand and behind closed doors, the examiners had secretly instructed nine of the students to deliberately give the wrong answer so that they could observe what the tenth would do. They were told to raise their hand and to always vote for the second longest line. (The tenth student had no idea that the other nine were colluding against him.)

When the first card was help up, it was apparent that line C was longer than the others but when the examiners pointed to line A (the second largest line) nine hands immediately shot in the air. The tenth teenager hesitated for a moment, glanced at his classmates and then also raised his hand. The examiners tried again with another card and as before nine hands were immediately raised supporting the wrong answer. Again the tenth student hesitated slightly but followed suit and also raised his hand. This happened time and time again with the same result each time.

Afterwards, the examiners revealed to the lad in question what had happened and they asked him why he had deliberately answered incorrectly. The young man replied that on the first occasion he assumed that he had misheard the question and so he followed the example set by his classmates. The second time around, he said that he realised the others had answered incorrectly but he didn’t want to attract attention to himself and so, even though he knew it was the wrong answer, he went along with them. Eventually he admitted to the examiners that he had continued along this path because he considered it more important to go along with the others and “fit in” rather than stand-alone and be right! The depressing thing is that he was not alone. In fact, nearly 80 per cent of the teenagers tested behaved in a similar fashion.