Conformity Lesson 2 Asch

Lesson 2
Asch’s Conformity Experiment
In Sherif’s experiment there was no definte right or
wrong answer, this meant there was good reason for
the participants to be influenced by others. If they
were not sure of the correct answer then there is
reason for uncertainty. Sherif’s experiment does not
reveal anything surprising about human behaviour. It
was this problem that prompted Asch to conduct an
experiment with a correct answer. Would people
conform to judgements that were definitely wrong?
Asch conducted a pilot study by asking 36 people to
match the target line with one of the comparison
lines. In all trials they got the answer correct – this
was definitely an unambiguous task.
The task
The experiment
To investigate whether participants would
yield (conform) to the incorrect majority even
when the correct answers were always
The line judgement task seven male stooges
and one naive participant were asked to say
aloud which one of three comparison lines
were the same length as the target line. The
correct answer was always obvious. The
genuine participant called out his answer
second last.
In some trials the accomplices gave all the same
wrong answers.
Asch measured how many times the naïve
participant gave a correct answer or conformed to
the incorrect majority. Just over 22% of participants
gave the correct answer on all 12 occasions. This
means that 78% of participants gave at least one
incorrect response in line with the majority. About
5% gave the same answer as all the incorrect
majority on all occasions.
Even in unambiguous situations, there may
be strong group pressure to conform,
especially if the group is a unanimous
Why did people conform?
Their perception must have been inaccurate and the
majority’s accurate. Perhaps they were suffering
from eye strain or sitting in a bad position.
Not to stand out and look inferior or stupid.
Not to be an outcast.
To convey a good impression of themselves.
Not to spoil the experiment or upset the
Asch concluded
A major factor in conformity was to avoid conflict and
social disapproval. Asch (1956) investigated these
fears of social disapproval directly by doing a further
The procedure was the same except a stooge gave
the wrong answer in a room of 16 naïve participants.
Asch found that the naïve participants acted in
disbelief and laughed and ridiculed the stooge. Even
the experimenter found it difficult to control his
laughter. It does therefore seem that the participants
were justified in fearing conflict and social
Evaluation of Asch (+)
The findings of Asch’s work have implications for
many aspects of group behaviour such as decision
making and social interaction.
His experiment can be seen as an example of the
rigorous standards required in psychological
research: participants were studied under highly
controlled conditions, Asch was able to carry out
statistical analyses on the data collected and his
study has been replicated with similar results
produced (Neto,1995).
Evaluation (-)
Lack of validity
Ethical issues
2/3 of judgements were correct?
Conformity is conveyed as a negative
response but it does have beneficial effects.
It is important for social stability; group norms
provide a standard and expectations of
behaviour ensuring a structure and order for
social groups.