Conformity- Asch

Method, findings and evaluation points.

Solomon Asch (1951/1956) investigated the question of whether people would conform even in highly ambiguous situations.                                                                                                                                  Asch set up a situation in which seven people all sat looking at a display. They were given the task of saying out loud which one of the three lines A,B or C was the same length as a given stimulus line, with the experimenter working his way around the group members in ter. All but one of the participants were confederates of the experimenter.  Most of the time the confederates gave the right answers but on some “critical” trials they were instructed to unanimously give the wrong answer. The one genuine participant was the last (or last but one) to offer his opinion on each trial. The performance of participants exposed to such group pressure was compared to performance in a control condition in which there were no confederates.

Asch’s finding were dramatic. On crucial trials on which the confederates all gave the same wrong answer, the genuine participants also gave the wrong answer approximately 37% of these trials. This should be compared against an error rate of 0.7% in the control condition. Thus the correct answers were obvious, and it might have been expected that nearly all the participants would have given them.

Asch manipulated s number of aspects of the situation in order to understand more fully the factors underlying conformity behaviour. For example he found that the conformity effect increase as the number of confederates went up from one to three but there was no increase between three and sixteen confederates. However, other researchers have often found that there is a small increase in conformity as the number of confederates goes up above three.  


A weakness of Asch’s experiment was that the participants could have guessed what was required of them. This is called a demand characteristic, the participants realised the experimenters wanted them to conform (the participants were also paid to take part in the experiment), so in response the participants may not have wanted to ruin the experiment.

Another weakness is that there were no limitations to the experiment, e.g. the participants were never asked for the reason behind there answer so it is unclear why they did or did not conform.

Another weakness is that the sample of participants were all male which fits in the andocentric theory.

Another weakness is that it was a trivial situation, for example if 99% of the population held a strong belief would someone conform against that deeply held belief e.g. God ( Darwin), there is a clear difference between conforming against the length of lines to conforming against a topic e.g. God ect.

A strength is that the non confederate was told by Asch that the other 6 participants (confederates) were all from highly ranked social backgrounds e.g. doctor, lawyer, politician ect. This increased the ecological validity of the experiment to see whether ordinary middle classed people would conform to much higher socially ranked individuals.

Source 1.

Source 1 is a replica or Asch’s experiment , if the confederates were todl to give the right answer they would all have said B, however if they were told to give the wrong answer they would have said either A or C.


thanks for reading, if you need anything else to do with psychology just comment this and i’ll do it the day after =]

kimberley .

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2 Responses to “Conformity- Asch”
  1. samknowsbest Says...

    On December 3, 2009 at 6:42 am

    argh =D this helped me sosososososo much , thank yoouuu , could you do one on sherif please ???

  2. babs Says...

    On October 20, 2010 at 9:42 am


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