Conformity: Asch's Research

Asch Conformity research

P R O C E D U R E 

  • Recruited 123 american male students.
  • Each was tested individually with a group of between 6-8 confederates
  • On each trial the ppts identified the length of a standard line
  • On the first few trials the confederates gave correct answers but then all selected the same wrong answers
  • Each ppt completed 18 trials
  • On 12 of those trials, confederates gave the wrong answer.


  • The näive ppts gave a wrong answer 36.8% of the time
  • This shows a high level of conformity - The Asch Effect
  • There were considerabe individual differences: 25% of ppts never gave a wrong answer, 75% conformed at least once. A few ppts conformed most of the time.
  • Most ppts said they conformed to avoid rejection (NSI) and continued to privately trust their own view (compliance)
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Asch: Variables affecting Conformity


  • Group size: The number of confederates varied between 1 and 15
  • Unanimity: Asch introduced a truthful confederate or a confederate who was dissenting but inaccurate.
  • Task Difficulty: Made the task harder by making the stimulus line and the comparison lines more similar in length.

F I N D I N G S 

  • Group size: With 2 confederates= conformity to wrong answer was 13.6%, With 3 confederates= conformity to wrong answer rose to 31.8%
  • Unanimity: Presence of the dissenting confederate reduced conformity, whether they was giving the right or wrong answer, The figure was on average 25%. Having the dissenting confederate enabled the ppts to behave more independently
  • Task Difficulty: Conformity increased when task was more difficult. Informational social influence plays a bigger role when the task becomes harder- more likely to look to others and assume they are right as task is more ambiguous
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Evaluation of Asch's Research


The situation and task was artificial

Participants knew they were in a study so they may have just simply responded to demand characteristics. The line task was trivial so there was no reason not to conform. Also the näive participants were in a group but this group does not really resemble the groups found in everyday life. This is a limitation because the findings do not generalise to everyday situations where consequences of conformity are important, and where we interact with groups more directly.

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Evaluation of Asch's Research 2


The findings only apply to certain groups

In Aschs research, only men were tested. Other research (Neto) suggests that women might be more conformist, possibly because they are more concerned about social relationships and being accepted. The participants in Aschs study were from the USA an Individualist culture, where people are more concerned with themselves than their social group. Other research suggests that conformity rates are higher in collectivist countries e.g China, which are more concerned with group needs. This suggests that conformity levels are sometimes even higher than Asch found, as his findings are limited to American Men and he did not take Gender and Culture into account.

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Evaluation of Asch's Research 3


Asch's findings may be a child of its time

Perrin and Spencer repeated Asch's study on engineering students in the UK. They found just one conforming response in 396 trials. This may be because engineering students are more confident about measuring a line than the participants in Asch's original study, so they were less conformist. However it is also possible that the 1950s were a conformist time in america and therefore it made sene to conform, but society has changed alot since then so people are most likely less conformist today then they was then. This is a limitation because the Asch effect is not consistent over all situations and over time.

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