Asch And Variables Affecting Conformity Flashcards Preview

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Describe Asch's study and the findings

123 male participants were told they were going to be taking part in a visual comparison task. They were tested in groups of 7-9. In each group there was only one genuine (naïve) participant, all the other participants were stooges or confederates.

The participants were seated in a semi-circle and their task was to decide which one of the three comparison lines was the same length as the standard line.
They had to give their answer our loud, in the order they were seated with the naive participant always giving their answer second from last.

There were 18 trials. On 6 neutral trials all the stooges gave the correct answer but on the other 12 trials they all gave the same wrong answer (the critical trials). Asch wanted to see if the participant would conform to the wrong majority view.

The results found that on the 12 critical trials the average conformity rate was 33% (the p's agreed with the wrong answer a third of the time)
75% of the participants conformed at least once (so 25% never conformed) and about 5% confirmed every time.

When participants were interviewed afterwards most say they conformed to avoid rejection.

Asch showed that people will conform to a majority view even when it is obvious that the majority are wrong.


What type explanation for conformity could be used here? What type of conformity were Asch's participants showing?

Asch's participants showed evidence of compliance as they outwardly agreed with what the majority was saying whilst internally knowing that they were wrong, because they wanted to avoid rejection. This would be explained by normative social influence as people conformed because they had a 'desire to be liked'.


Asch was further interested in the conditions that might lead to an increase or a decrease in conformity. He investigated these by carrying out some variations on his original procedure.

What three variations on his study did Asch investigate?

Group size of the majority, unanimity (social support) and task difficulty


What does research indicate about conformity rates and the size of the majority?

Research indicates that conformity rates increase as the size of the majority influence increases, but there comes a point where further increases in the size of the majority doesn't lead to further increases in conformity.


Describe Asch's variation of his study to do with group size of the majority and the findings

Asch wanted to know whether the size of the group would be more important than the agreement of the group.

Asch varies the size of the majority (confederates) from 1-16. Two confederates produced 13% conformity, and three confederates produced 33%. Therefore it seemed that the bigger the group - the higher the levels of conformity.

However the addition of further confederates didn't lead to any further increases in conformity.
This was because more confederates means more possibility of the naive participant becoming suspicious (collusion).

This suggests that a small majority is not sufficient for influence to be exerted but, at the other extreme, there is no need for a majority of more than 3.


What variation of Asch's original study investigated effects of unanimity on the naive participant's conformity?

In Asch's study, the majority was unanimous (they all agreed with one another). In a variation on the original study, Asch introduced a confederate who disagreed with the others - sometimes the confederate gave the correct answer and sometimes he gave the wrong one.

The presence of a dissenting (disagreeing) confederate led to reduced conformity (whether they were giving a right or wrong answer) - with an average of 25% conformity.

We can use informational social influence to explain the changes in conformity rates.

It seems that the fact someone's else is agreeing is important. This means we can share the possible disapproval or rejection by the group and we have someone to share the blame with. This suggests that the influence did the majority depends to some extent on the group being unanimous.


Why do conformity rates increase when the task difficulty increases?

Greater conformity rates are seen when task difficulty increases, as the right answer becomes less obvious.

This means that individuals will look to others for more guidance as to what the correct response is.


What explanation of conformity can we use to explain the changes in conformity rates?

Informational social influence


Describe the variation of Asch's study that investigated into the effect of task difficulty on conformity

Asch made the line-judging task more difficult by making the stimulus line and the comparison lines more similar in length. He found that conformity increased under these conditions.

This may be due to our belief in our own competence. Those who perceive themselves as competent at a task conform less that others.


Describe how Asch's study lacks external validity and condistency

Perrin and Spencer (1980) repeated Asch's original study with engineering students in the UK. Only one student conformed in a total of 396 trials. It may be that the engineering students felt more confident about measuring lines than the original sample and therefore were less conformist.

But it is also possible that the 1950s (when Asch carried out his research) were an especially conformist time in America, and therefore it made sense to conform. Society has changed a great deal since then, and people are possibly less conformist today.

This is a limitation of Asch's research because it means that the Asch effect is not consistent across situations and may not be consistent across time and cannot be generalised.


How do the findings of Asch's study have limited applications?

Only men were tested by Asch. Other research suggests that women might be more conformist, possibly because they are more concerned about social relationships (and being accepted) than men are.

The men in Asch's study were from the United States, an individualist culture where people are more concerned about themselves rather than their social group. Similar conformity studies conducted in collectivist cultures (such as China where the social group is more important than the individual) have found that conformity rates are higher.

This shows that Asch's findings may only apply to American men because he didn't take gender and cultural differences into account.


How could Asch's study actually show independent behaviour rather than conformity?

Only one third of the trials where the majority unanimously gave the same wrong answer conformed - so that means that in two thirds of these trials the participants stuck to 'their guns' despite being faced with an overwhelming majority expressing a different view.

Asch believed that his study demonstrated a tendency for participants to stick to what they believed to be the correct answer - independent behaviour.


What ethical issues does Asch's study have?

•deception - deceiving participants over what the study is about should be avoided wherever possible.

In Asch's study the participants were deceived about the nature of the study (participants were told the study was about visual perception) and the role of the other participants. It was not until the debrief that they were told the true purpose of the study.

However, without deception the participants would've fingered out what was going on and may have succumb to demand characteristics making the results of the study less valid.

•lack of informed consent - unless participants know the aim and procedure and are fully informed about the study in using the right to withdraw, they cannot give informed consent. The deception in Asch's study ruled out informed consent.

•protection from harm - participants with low self esteem may have suffered significant after effects causing them to doubt themselves.