Asch designed an experiment to see whether people would conform to a majority's incorrect answer in an unambiguous task (where one answer is obvious).
- Lab experiment
- Independent groups design
- Groups of 8 patricipants judged line lengths by saying out which line matched the standard line.
- Each group only contained one real participant - 7 confederates
- Participant when last or one before last so they heard everyone elses answers before giving theirs.
- Each patricipant did 18 trials.
- On 12 trials the confederates all gave the same wrong answers.
- Was a control group, where patricipants judged the line lengths in isolation.
- Control trails, participants gave the wrong answer 0.7% of the time
- In critical trials, participants conformed and gave the same answer 37% of the time.
- 75% conformed at least once.
- Afterwards, some of them said that they knew the answers were wrong they just didn't want to look different.
The control condition showed that the task was easy to get right. However, 37% were wrong in the critical trials - they conformed to the majority due to normative social influence.
- Labratory experiment - good control of variables - minimises effects of extranous variables.
- Can repeat the experiment to see if you got the same results.
- Artificial - lacks ecological validity.
- Participants decieved and may have been embarassed when they found out the true nature of the the study.
1. Group size
- To test whether if conformity is easier to resist if the group size is smaller, Asch (1956) did his experiment with different numbers of confederates as the majority.
- With two confederates, the participant conformed 14% of the time in the critical trials.
- Three confederates, conformity = 32%.
- Little change in conformity after that - no matter how big the group got.
- Very small majorities easier to resist than larger ones.
2. Unaimity/ social support
- Asch ran another experiment to test if having a supporter in the group decreased conformity.
- One confederate agreed with the participant.
- Having a dissenter broke the unanimity and made it easier for the participant to resist the pressure to conform.
- Conformity dropped to 5.5%.
- When Asch made the lines more difficult to tell apart, conformity levels increased.
- People are less likely to conform if they're confident their answer is right, Asch found this put during his debrief.
- Weisenthal et al (1980) found that if people felt more competent in a task, they were less likely to conform.
Eagly and Carli (1981) did a meta analysis of conformity research & reanalysed data from a load of studies. They did find some sex differences in conformity, but they were inconsistent. Clearest differences were between men and women in Asch-like studies where there was group pressure from an audience.