Asch- Context and Aims
- Jenness, 1932: students guess how many beans were in a jar. Told to discuss their estimates, then give their own individual estimates. Individual estimates tend to converge to a group norm.
- Sherif, 1935: used to autokinetic effect, where a apot of light is placed in the centre of a dark room and appears to move around. Students asked to estimate how far the spot of light had moved. Gave individual estimates, then discussed their estimates in groups of three, then gave their estimates again. Sherif found estimates were altered upon discussion to converge to a group norm.
- Asch belived the previous two studies were limited because in ambiguous situations it makes sense that we look to others for answers. Asch wanted to investigate whether people would still choose to conform in unambiguous situations where the answer is clear, and they are faced with a unanimous wrong answer.
- Student volunteers were selected through an advertisment inviting them to take part in a "vision" test. Overall, 123 male undergraduate volunteers took part in the experiment
- In each experiment, there was one real "niave" participant and six to eight "confederates" fake participants that were hired by Asch. The niave participant would always be asked to sit last or second to last so they would be able to hear the confederates' responses.
- The niave participant and confederates were shown two cards. On one card was a single vertical line, the standard line whose length was to be compared, and on the other card were three vertical lines of varying lengths- the comparison lines. One of the comparison lines was the same length as the standard line, and the other two lines were of substantially different lengths. The participants were asked to identify which of the comparison lines was the same length as the standard line.
- The experiment began uneventfully, with all participants giving the correct answers, however after a few rounds the confederates were still to deliberately make an errenous judgement. Overall, confederates were instructed to give the wrong answer on 12 out of the 18 trials.
- Additional procedures were carried out to see in what other ways conformity would be effective. The size of the group was altered from 2 to 8 confederates, in a couple of trials a confederate was asked to disagree with the confederates and the niave participant, and in some of the trials a confederate was told to walk out.
- After the experiment, participants were fully debriefed afterwards.
Asch- Findings and Conclusions
- When faced with a unanimous wrong answer from the confederates, the niave participants also gave the wrong answer 36.8% of the time.
- 25% of participants never gave a wrong answer, while 75% conformed at least once.
- Conformity increased when the size of the majority increased, and the unanimousy of the majority increased- conformity was greatest when there was a large number of confederates and they all gave the same, incorrect, answer. The prescence of a dissenter who disagreed with the majority reduced the pressure to conform,as did when a confederate left the experiment "for no good reason.
- The findings clearly demonstrate that humans have a strong tendency to conform when faced with a unanimous majority. However, the results also show the ways in which we can resist confromity, since on two-thirds of the trails the niave participants remained independant.
Asch- Evaluating the Methodology
Research Method- Lab Experiment
+ High degree of control exercised- limits ex traneous variables, clear IV and DV, so results could be easily measured. Experiment was replicated, demonstrating its reliability.
- Lacks ecological validity- highly sterile, confined situation- unlikely conformity is so extreme in reality, many participants could well have just been displaying demand charac teristics so as not to ruin the experiment.
+ Volunteers- the most ethical way to gain a sample
- Ethnocentric because only white middle class Americans were used, and androcentric because only men were used.
- Lacks confidentiality, as participants were filmed, and they were decieved about the true nature of the experiment. Otherwise ethical.