Aim: Asch wanted to know whether people could be influenced by other peoples opinions to gie an answer they know to be wrong. In this way it would be possible to see if people were conforming.
Method: Participants were shown sets of four lines. For each set, participant had to say whether line A, B or C was the same length as the test line. When tested alone, participants rarely made a mistake (the error rate was less that 1%). However, participants also had to give their answers as part of a group. the rest of the group was instructed to give incorrect answers for some of the tests.
Results: on 32% of the trials where the rest of the group gave the wrong answer, the participant gave the same wrong answer as the rest of the group, rather than the obviously correct answer. In fact 74% of the participants gave at least one wrong answer.
Conclusion: The only reason for this 32% error rate was hearing the incorrect answers previously given. Those who gave incorrect answers told Asch they knew their answers were wrong but didnt want to go against the rest of the group. this clearly demonstrates normal social influence.
Aim: To discover the effect on judgement of listening to other people.
Method: He asked participants o estimate how far a spot of light moved when they were sitting in an otherwise completely dark room. In fact the light did not move at all, but owing to an optical illusion called the autokinetic effect it did appear to.
Results: Individually the participants gave a variety if estimates, which differed quite widely from each others. However, after after being allowed to undergo the task in groups of three, their estimates became more similar until finally they were very close.
Conclusion: The participants used other peoples opinions to help them form a judgement in an ambiguous situation.
Both experiments were performed in a labratory. This means that neither was a natural situation for the participants and so they may not have behaved in a natural way. as a consequence, the results might not be the same as they would be in an everday situation. This is known as having "low ecological validity". Also, Asch carried out his experiment with university students, who may not behave in the same way as other people. this too could lead to an innaccurate conclusion.
On the other hand, labratory experiments offer a lot of control over the variables. When Asch conducted his research, he was able to alter several factors to see the impact on the rate of conformity. He found that if the task was more difficult, or there were more confederates giving incorrect answers, the rate of conformity increased. However, if the task was easier, or there was another person giving the correct answer, the rate went down.