PY2 Psychology. ASCH


Aims & Context

Context 1.

Conformity can be defined as the change in a persons behaviour when under real or imagined pressure by a person or group of people.

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Aims & Context

Context 2.

It is an important process for psychologists to understand as it is thought to have a significant impact on many of our behaviours and the decisions we make in situations. 

E.G. In a jury.

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Aims & Context

Context 3.

Asch felt that previous work done on conformity by psychologists such as JENNSS (1932) and SHERRIF (1935) did not really test conformity as these tests are limited as they do not put the participant in a situation where they are put under pressure to conform.

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Aims & Context

Context 4

Jenness (1932)

Jenness asked individual students to estimate the number of beans that appeared in a bottle. He then asked them in groups to arrive at a group estimate. When he then asked them to make another individual estimate, he found that their individual estimates had shifted towards the group estimate. 

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Aims & Context

Context 5

Sherif (1935) 

Sherif reported research which had used the autokinetic effect. Sherif told them he was going to move the light and they were to estimate how far the light had moved. All participants were initially tested individually, however they were then exposed to the estimates of two other participants and sherif found that when exposed to these other participants' estimates the individuals estimates tended to converge to a group norm which was an average of these individuals estimates.

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Aims & Context

Context 6

Asch was interested to see whether individuals would conform to the obviously wrong answer to a task when they knew the correct answer. 

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Aims & Context


Asch aimed to investigate the effcts of group pessure on individuals in an unambigouos situation.

'I aim to find out if, when confronted with an obvious incorrect answer, will the individuals give an answer whoch perpetuated this error or will they give an independant response.'  

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A group of 7 to 9 male students from local colleges are told that they will be taking part in a 'psychological experiment in visual judgement' The researcher informs them that they will be comparing the length of lines.

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He shows the group two large white cards. One card has a single vertical black line - ' The standard line' and the other has three black lines are varying lengths. 

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The participants are asked to choose the line on the second card that is the same length as the standard line. One is the same length, the other two are substantially different in length to the standard line. 

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The group of participants verbally report their judgements in order. This task is completed 18 times.

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The second to last participant in each group is called the naive participant. They do not know the other participants are actually confederates of Asch. These confederates have been told to give the same obvious wrong answer on 12 of the 18 trials. These are called critical trials.

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The naive participant always sat in the last but one seat to ensure the majority of confederate participants gave their unanimous replies before the naive participant was asked to verbally report their judgement.

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123 participants found themselves in the naive participant seat. Asch wanted to see on the 12 critical trials:

(i) Whether the naive participant would verbally report the same answer as the rest of the participants, in other words would they give a conforming response.


(ii) Whether the naive participant would verbally report a different answer as the rest of the participants, in other words would they give an independant non-conforming response.

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After completing the trials, Asch revealed the true nature of the research and interviewed the naive participants about their responses and behaviour.

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Findings & Conclusions


Naive participants conformed to the incorrect answer 36.8% of critical trials. Wheras in ordinary circumstances individuals matching the lines will make mistakes less than 1% of the time. 

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Findings & Conclusions


Out of 123 participants only 24% did not conform to the majority judgement at any point and answered individually on all trials, compared with 5% of participants who conformed on all trials of all of the time. Approximately 75% of participants conformed at least once on critical trials.

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Findings & Conclusions


Participant behaviour on the critical trials tended to be consistent.

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Findings & Conclusions


Participants were interviewed afterwards and gave a number of reasons why they did not conform.

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Findings & Conclusions


Participants who conformed gave the following reasons for why they did conform.

(1) Distortion of perception - thought they were wrong and others were right.

(2) Suspected the majority were sheep following the first responding participant.

(3) In order to please the researcher and not to spoil the results.

(4) Thought the majority were victim of an optical illusion

(5) Many participants construed their difference as a general deficiency in themselves, which at all costs they must hide to avoid ridicule.

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Findings & Conclusions


Participants who did not conform gave the following reasons for their behaviour:

(1) Had staunch confidence in their own judgement.

(2) Had the capacity to recover from doubt and re-establish their equilibrium.

(3) Felt it was their obligation to call the play as they saw it. 

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Findings & Conclusions


All of the comlient participants underestimated the frequency with which they conformed. 

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Findings & Conclusions


In conclusion Asch's study demonstrates that conformity is a powerful influence in our behaviour. We have found that the tendancy to conform is so strong that reasonably intellegent and well meaning young people are willing to call white as black is a matter of concern. 

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19 and 20 are the same but very helpful

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