Asch revision

Asch Aims and Context

  • Asch suggested that the results of previous research into conformity, such as Sherif and Jenness, were due to the fact that the stimulus material was ambiguous (unclear).
  • Jenness asked Ps to estimate the number of beans in a bottle and then had them discuss it to arrive at a group estimate. When they were asked individually to make a second estimate, there was a distinct shift towards the group estimate. Shows conformity.
  • Using a similar procedure to Jenness, Sherif used a visual illusion called the autokinetic effect
  • Aschs experiment took place in 1950 when conformity was an area of interest for psychologists because the cold war was taking place between russia and the westen world. If an american didn't conform they were accused of being a communist and thought to be a russian spy.
  • asch aimed to find out how likely it would be for an individual to go against a group norm.
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Asch Procedure

  •   There were 123 male college students used 
  •   They were tested in groups of 7. They were asked to state aloud which comparison line matched the standard line.
  • There was only 1 naive participant in each group the others were confederates.
  •   The naive participant sat 2nd from the last – so that he actually wasn’t the last but still had listened to all the others say their answers.
  • There were 18 trials altogether. 12/18 trials were ‘critical’ trials, these were the ones where the confederates said the wrong answer on purpose.
  • This was done in a controlled conditions
  • After completing the trials Asch revealed the true nature of the study. He interviewed the naive participant about their responses and behaviour.
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Asch Findings and Conclusion

  • When faced with unanimous (purposely) wrong answers from the confederates, the naive participants also gave the wrong answer 36.8% of the time – this was on the critical trials.
  • Just to confirm that the lines were unambiguous – Asch conducted a control trial with no confederates giving the wrong answer.
  • In the control trial Asch found that less than 1% of the time people made mistakes.
  • 25% of the participants never gave the wrong answer which meant they never conformed.
  •  75% conformed at least once by giving a wrong answer.
  • When the participants had a truthful partner it reduced the pressure and their answer was incorrect 25% of the time.
  • When the confederate had a partner who changed his mind – started of being truthful then conformed to the majority – the naive participant also answered truthfully for the first 6 critical trials but then submitted to the majority wrong answers. 
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Asch Evaluation

  • Sample is bias- all male, all college students and all american, therefore it cannot be generalised.
  • Lab Experiments- controlled conditions however it was an artificial environment. difficult to relate to real life so it lacks ecological validity.
  • ethics- no consent, deception(they weren't told the real reason for the study) right to withdraw, pressure from payment.
  • asch acknowledged that the participants were under stress and discomfort therefore there were little protection. If he had of obtained consent the experiment would of being pointless as their behaviour would of been unnatural.
  • Reliability- stardard procedure: can be replicated (perrin and spencer). however different results have been obtained that show a different result. this could be down to the change in time.
  • Validity- methodology lacks ecological validity although its a true measure of conformity as the answers were ambiguous.
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Asch Alternative Evidence


  • Estimate the number of beans in a jar. They were asked to estimate as a group then give their individual estimates. he found their estimates converged to a group norm. 
  • lacks ecological validity- beans arent applied to real life.
  • Asch more reliable as the study was unambiguous.
  • It supports as they both showed conformity.


  • showed that others influced participants
  • he used the auto-kinetic effect.
  • This study was too unambiguous.

Perrin and Spencer-

  • used the same procedure.
  • used english engineering students.
  • doesn't support Aschs study as only one person conformed out of their study..
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