Variables affecting conformity including group size, unanimity and task difficulty as investigated by Asch

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Asch`s Research


  • Asch (1951, 1955) tested conformity by showing participants two large white cards at a time, one with a `standard line` and the other with three `comparison lines`. One of the lines was the same as the standard line while the other two were clearly wrong. The participants took it in turns to say which of the three lines matched the standard.
  • The participants were 123 American male undergraduates. Each participant was alone in a group of between 6 and 8 confederates. The participant was always either last or second to last to give their answer and they were unaware that the rest of the group were confederates.
  • On the first few trials the confederates gave the correct answers before starting to make errors (they were all instructed to give the same incorrect answer on twelve "critical" trials  - there were 18 trials overall).


  • the naive participants gave the wrong answers 36.8% of the time
  • overall 25% didn`t conform at all, meaning that 75% conformed at least once (this is now referred to as the Asch effect)
  • when participants were interviewed after they stated that they only conformed as they feared rejection (normative social influence)


  • A child of its time: Perrin and Spencer 1980 repeated study using engineering students in the UK. Only 1 student conformed in a total of 396 trials. May be due to the fact that, as engineering students, they felt more confident about measuring line lengths than the origninal sample and were therefore less conformist. In 1950s America it was the norm to be conformist, but times have…


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