Tested conformity by showing participants two large white cards at a time. On one card there was a standard line, on the other there were three comparison lines. One of the three were the same length as the standard line and the other two were clearly different. Participants were asked which of the three matched the standard line.
- 123 American male undergraduates.
- 1951, 1955
Each participant was tested in a group of six to eight confederates (participant was unaware the others were confederates). They were seated around a table with the participant placed last or second to last. They were all asked to give their answers individually, beginning with the 1st person (confederate).
First few trials confederates gave correct answers but were then instructed to give the same wrong answers. Each participant partook in 18 trials of which 12 were answered incorrectly by the confederates.
Asch found that participants gave wrong answers 36.8% of the time.
75% of the participants conformed at least once.
Asch effect - The extent to which participants conform even when the situation is unambigious.
Participants stated they conformed in order to avoid rejection (Normative Social Influence)
Group size - Wanted to see if the size of the group would be more important than the agreement of the group. Found that having three confederates made the conformity amongst participants rise (31.8%) but more than three confederates had little effect.
Unanimity - Wanted to see if a non-conforming confederate would effect the participants conformity. With one defiant confederate conformity reduced to roughly 25%. Suggests that the influence of the majority depends on unanimity (to an extent).
Task difficulty - Made the standard line and the three comparison lines more similar in length. Conformity increased under these conditions. In this circumstance Informational Social Influence plays a greater role as we look to others for guidance and assume the majority are correct.
Lack of research support - Perrin and Spencer (1980) replicated Asch's study with engineering students in the UK. 396 trials took place but only one student conformed. It is likely that the engineering students were more confident aboout measuring lines and therefore conformed less than the original sample but it is also likely that many conformed as a result of the time period and country they were in. A limitation as it means the Asch effect is not consistent across situations and/or time and therefore cannot be a fundamental feature of human behaviour.
Lack of ecological validity - The groups and the task that the participants were made to endure did not reflect what they would face in day to day life. Aditionally, the task was relatively trivial and participants may have become bored as well as demonstate demand characteristics as they were aware they were in a research study. A limitation as it means that the findings cannot be generalised to everyday situations.
Biased - Only men in America were tested by Asch. Research has suggested that woman may be more conformist than men (Neto 1995) and collectivist cultures (China, social group is more important than the individual) have higher conformity rates (Bond and Smith 1996) than individualist cultures (USA, more concerned about themselves rather than social groups). A limitation as Asch's study does not take gender and cultural differences into account and therefore cannot be generalised to the wider population.