# Asch (1951) - Conformity on an unambiguous task

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## Asch (1951)

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).

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## Method

• 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.
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## Results

• 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.
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## Conclusion

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.

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## Evaluation

Strengths

• Labratory experiment - good control of variables - minimises effects of extranous variables.
• Can repeat the experiment to see if you got the same results.

Weaknesses

• Artificial - lacks ecological validity.
• Participants decieved and may have been embarassed when they found out the true nature of the the study.
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## Situational factors

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.
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## Situational factors

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%.
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## Situational factors

Task difficulty

• 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.
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## Gender

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.

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