PY2- Asch, Opinions and social pressure

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  • Created by: Hannah
  • Created on: 03-05-11 21:34


Aim and Context

After WW2, there was a period called the Cold War where there was a disagreement between capitalism and communism. Americans became paronoid that 'The russains were coming' and this triggered McCarthyism in which people suspected of communism were put on trial for being unpatriotic. Americans stuck together to, avoid drawing attention to themselves they complied with the majority rather than the minority. Conformity is a type of social influence, when a minority changes their beliefs or behaviour because of the imagined pressure of the majority. There are two types of conformity, Informational social influence and normative social influence. Informational is when we believe the majority knows more than us, we publicly and privately agree with the majority. Normative is when we conform to a social norm to avoid conflict or rejection from the majority, we privately disagree but publicly agree.

Jenness asked students to estimate beans in a jar, they discussed in groups and guessed and then asked to guess again individually, estimates converged towards a norm. Sherif asked participants to estimate how far a light moved, this illusion called the autokinetic effect where the light doesnt actually move, participants were asked to give a group estimate and then individual estimates, again estimates established a group norm.

Asch aimed to demonstrate normative social influence and see if participants would conform when there is a definite answer. He then wanted to see if varying the size of the majority would effect responses and also if the support of dissenter would effect reponses of participants.


Asch conducted a lab experiment in which 123 male volunteers from 4 American universities participated. Participant was placed in a room with 6-8 stooges and was told the experiment was measuring peoples perceptions. The Participant had to compare line length, the first card had one line on it, the other had 3 comparison lines participants were asked which of the 3 lines was the same length as the one on the first card. Each Participant took part in 18 trials with 18 sets of cards, in 6 of the trials the majority gave the right answer in the other 12 the majority gave unanimous wrong answer. The Participant was placed in the last seat so they heard all the other responses first. In the Control condition, stooges gave all the correct answers to show the task wasnt too…


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