Asch's research on conformity

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  • Asch's research into conformity (1951)
    • AIM: To investigate the degree to which a person would conform to a majority decision that is clearly wrong
      • PROCEDURE: 123 US male participants took part in a line judgement test. Groups of 7/8, confederates with one naïve participant, 18 different trials, 12 critical trials, naïve participant answered second to last.
        • FINDINGS: The naïve participant gave the wrong answer 36.8% of the time. 25% of the participants did not conform on any of the trials, 75% conformed at least once
          • CONCLUSION: People's judgements are influenced by the majority, however there are some individual differences.
    • Weaknesses
      • Can't be generalised, only male uni students in 1950s
      • Only one participant used in each trial so is costly and time consuming = not repeatable.
        • Demand characteristics could have played a part
      • It is an artificial situation so is not applicable as it lacks mundane realism
      • Rate of conformity is only 32% on critical trials
    • Strengths
      • In the control group the rate of error was 0.04% (3 out of 720) Shows how obvious the correct answers are
      • It is valid
      • The participants were debriefed to avoid deception
    • Variations
      • GROUP SIZE: With less than 3 confederates the majority is not sufficient for influence to be exerted, but there is no need for a majority of more than three
      • UNAMITY: The presence of a dissenting confederate led to reduced conformity, whether the dissenter was giving the right or wrong answer. On average conformity was 25%. The presence of a dissenter enabled the naïve participant to behave more independantly
      • TASK DIFFICULTY: Conformity levels increased due to informative social influence as the answer was more ambiguous.


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