Asch (1955) – Opinions and Social Pressure
Conformity can be defined as a type of social influence involving a change in belief or behaviour in order to fit in with a group. This change is in response to real or imagined group pressure.
Normative Social Influence :- The desire to be liked – when we conform to fit ni with the group because we don’t want to appear foolish or be left out.
Informational Social Influence :- The desire to be right – when we conform because we are unsure of the situation, so we look to others who we believe may have more information than us.
Public Compliance :- When someone only alters their behaviour to conform.
Private Acceptance :- When someone alters both their behaviour and their beliefs.
Jenness asked students to guess how many jelly beans were in a jar, then discuss their estimates in groups and then give individual estimates again. It was found that the second time, the individual estimates converged to a group norm. He concluded that in an ambiguous situation people will look to others to get some ideas about a reasonable answer.
Sherif used the autokinetic effect. He told participants he was going to move the light, and asked them to estimate how far the spot of light had moved. All participants were individually tested and were then asked to work with three others who had given different estimates of movement. After discussion, each participant was asked to provide an individual answer again. Sherif found that the participants’ second estimates tended to converge to a group norm which was an average of these individuals’ estimates. He concluded that this demonstrates a tendency to establish and conform to group norms.
Previous Research Limitations
Asch thought that the research of both Jenness and Sherif was limited because it did not really measure conformity – it measured the formation of norms rather than whether people conformed to the behaviour and opinion of others. Asch also believed that the research lacked impact because conformity is quite likely in ambiguous situations where there are no clear answers.
Asch aimed to investigate the effects of group pressure on individuals in an unambiguous situation. He wanted to find out if, when confronted with an obviously incorrect answer, individuals would give an answer which perpetuated this error or would give an independent response.
There were 123 male student volunteers. They were selected from three US colleges and were all undergraduates who Asch asked to participate. They all believed they were talking part in a vision test.
In each session there was one naïve participant and a group of six to eight confederates. The participants were seated in a room, with the naïve participant always seated last or second to last to ensure that he heard the others’ answers before giving his own.
The participants were shown two large white cards. ON…