Asch- Opinions and Social Pressure

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  • Created by: Sam
  • Created on: 28-04-14 20:14

Asch-Context + Aims


  • Previous research looked into how people in groups formed their own opinions
  •  JENNESS 1932 - jelly beans in a jar Students gave individual estimates, after dicussion estimates differed to a group norm. 
  • SHERIF 1935- similar investigation, using autokinetic effect, shone a light in a dark room, it appears to move, indivuiduals gave estimate before, and after discussion,estimates went to group norm.
  • Asch thought Jenness +  Sherif's experiments were limited because it didn't measure comformity as it mesasures fromation of norms rather than if people conformed. 


Asch aimed to investigate the effects of group pressure on individuals in a unambigious situations. He wanted to see whether when a participant was presented with a clearly wrong answer, whether the individual would conform to the answer, or act independantyly. 

He also aimed to see whether the size of the majority was improtant in conformity. 

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Asch- Procedure

Basic Study: 

  • 123 male students from US, volunteer sample. Recruited for a vision test. 
  • Each session, 1 naive paticipant, between 6 and 8 confederates. 
  • Participants seated in room with confederates, always seated last. 
  • Participants shown 2 large cards, one with a standard line, and the other with three lines of various lengths, particiapnts were asked to choose which of the 3 lines matched the standard. 
  • One of the comparison lines was the same length, other 2 were clearly different. 
  • The confederates gave the incorrect answer on 12/18 trials with each particpant. 
  • After the trials Asch debriefed the naive participants. 


  • The size of the group was varied from 1-15 people.
  • Truthful partner was added/ 
  • Unaccurate partner- gave different answer to other confederates, but still wrong. 
  • Partner who changed mind- started off correct answer, then started to conform. 
  • Partner who leaves- gives correct responses for first 6 trials, then leaves. 
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Asch- Findings

  • Findings for original trial:
  • Control Trial: To confirm stimulus lines are unambigious, All confederates gave right answers.People make mistakes less than 1%.
  • Critical Trials: The naive participants gave wrong answers 36.8% of the time.
  • Individual Differences:
    • 25% of particpantsnever conformed. 75% conformed at least once. Some participants went with the majority nearly all of the time.
    • Participant behaviour tended to stay consistant over the trials.
    • The particiants that conformed more often,underestimated how many times they conformed, and gave excuses.
  • Additional procedures:
  • size- only 1 confederate had little effect,with 2 participants were wrong 13.6% of the time, and with 3 it rose to 31.8%.
  • truthful partner- reduced conformity to 25%
  • Inaccurate partner- reduced confromity to 6%.
  • Partner who changed mind- participant also didn't confrom, but then changed with partner.
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Asch- Conclusions

Sudy shows that-

  • There is a surprsingly strong tendancy to confrom to group pressure in a situtation where the answer is unambiguous.
  • Certain factors affect conformity, for example, the size of the group.
  • People do resist to conform
  • Can be appplied to real world- e.g education, it is psychologically unhealthy to be ut under group pressure.
  • Two important findings:
    • there was conformity.
    • most people can resist the pressure to conform.
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Asch- Methodology + Aleternative Evidence.

  • D-  The original study was not an experiment. Only conducted in a lab environment                        Advantages: Control over extraneous variables.                                                                     Disadvantages: Demand characteristics, lacks mundane realsim.
  • E-   Deception, psychological harm (stress+embarassment)
  • R-   Can be replicated, e.g Perrin +Spencer.
  • V-   Low ecological validity, not an important taskm naive partcipants didn't know others                 (Williams and Sogon: People conform more with people they know)
  • S-  Study used sample of male US college students. People in individualst cultures conform           less.

 Alternative Evidence:

  • Perrin +Spencer 1980: Repeated the experiment in England only one out of 396 science students comformed. People 1950's America more confromity.However youths on probation it showed higher conformity rates.  CONTRADICTS. 
  • Neto 1955: found women are more conformist, more concerned with social relationships. 
  • Niccolson et al 1985: Supports. 
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