Asch`s study

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  • Variables affecting conformity (Asch)
    •  Wanted to investigate the effect that a majority would have if the test was very obvious and unambiguous (clear). 
    • Procedure
      • Used 123 male American undergraduate students
      •  The naïve participant didn’t know that the rest of the people taking part were all confederates.
      • There were between 7 and 9 people in a group. All participants sat around a table with the real participant last or second to last.
      •  All participants were shown 2 cards; one card with a standard line on it and another card with three comparison lines on it that differed in length, (labelled A,B and C.) Participants had to choose which line (A, B or C) was the same as the standard line.
      • Confederates gave the correct answer on 6 out of the 18 trials (neutral trials), but on 12 of the trails the confederates all agreed on the same incorrect line. (critical trials). Asch wanted to see if the participant would agree with the majority and go for the obvious wrong line. 
    • Findings
      • 37% of the answers given were incorrect. 25% of the participants never conformed at all.75% conformed at least once. 5% conformed on every critical trial.
      • To make sure the answer was obvious Asch did the study using all real participant’s. he found that people make mistakes about 1% of the time.
      • When interviewed the participants said they conformed to avoid rejection
    • Variations of the study
      • Group size
        • Asch then repeated his study with different sized majority groups. He found that when there was only 1 or 2 people in the majority group, there was little conformity. But when there was majority of 3 conformity jumped to 31.8%. further increases in the size of the majority did not increase this level of conformity substantially, indicating that the size of the majority is important but only up to a certain point.
      • Unanimity
        • Asch wanted to know if the presence of another, non-conforming person would affect the naïve participant’s conformity. He introduced a confederate who disagreed with the others- the confederate answered incorrectly on all trials before the genuine participant. The presence of a confederate who gave the wrong answer reduced conformity- figure was on average 5.5% conformity. Presence of nonconformist allowed the naïve participant to act more independently- therefore the influence of the majority depends on group being unanimous.  
      • Task difficulty 
        • Asch made the line judgement task more difficult- he made the standard line similar to other lines. He found that conformity increased under these conditions. This suggested that informational social influence plays a greater role when the task becomes more difficult. This is because the situation is more ambiguous as were more likely to look for other people for guidance to assume they’re right. 
    • AO3
      • Child of it’s time- Mcarthyism/ Perrin and Spencer
        • In 50s America there was a strong sense of anti-communism where people were scared to against the majority. Perrin and Spencer (1980) repeated Asch’s original study but with engineering students in the UK. Only one student conformed in a total of 396 trials. It may be that engineering students felt more confident about measuring lines than the original sample therefore conformed less. Therefore, this is a limitation of Asch’s research, it has temporal validity because it means that the Asch effect is not consistent across situations and time and is not a fundamental feature of human behaviour.
      • Demand characteristics (Fiske)
        • Participant knew they were in a research study and may simply have gone along with the demands of the situation. The task was not trivial (not important) and therefore there was really no reason to conform. Moreover, the confederates weren’t trained actors so it could be that the naïve p`s may have realised what was happening and just pretended to conform as that is what they thought the researcher wanted them to do. Furthermore, although naïve participants were members of a “group”, it didn’t resemble groups we are part of in everyday life. Fiske (2014) suggested that Asch’s groups were not very “groupy” Therefore, this is a limitation because we cannot generalise to everyday situations. E.g. where consequences of conformity might be more important and we can interact with groups in a more direct way and therefore this study lacks external validity.
      • Limited application
        • Only men were tested by Asch. Other research suggests that women might be more conformist- possibly because they are more concerned with social relationships than men are. (Neto, 1995). Men in Asch’s study were from the USA which is an individualistic culture. Therefore, Asch’s findings may only apply to American men and therefore be androcentric/ lacks population validity and lacks cross cultural validity because he didn’t take gender/ cultural differences into account. This means we cannot apply it to other cultures.
      • Ethical issues 
        • There are ethical issues with Asch’s study ·         The naïve p`s were deceived as they did not know that the other p`s were actually confederates. He also told them that they were taking part in a vision test. (it was actually to see if they would conform – looking at majority influence meaning that Asch did not gain informed consent. ·         This could put the P`s under stress during the experiment and also could have caused embarrassment to the p`s once they discovered the true nature of it afterward, which could lead to psychological harm. Therefore, the experiment can be said to have ethical limitations, however without deception the experiment could not have taken place so it was necessary in order to generate valid results.


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