Asch(1952) - Social Pressure and Conformity


Asch asked participants to answer a set of simple visual problems

On each problem participants had to ‘speak out’ which of the three comparison lines matched a standard line in length.

Comparison Lines




Standard Lines


Several other people (usually 6-8) were also present during the experiment

But unknown to the real participant, all were accomplices of the experimenter.


On certain occasions known as critical trials  the accomplicies offered answers that were clearly wrong


They unanimously(all together) chose the wrong line as a match for the standard line.


Very importantly they said there answer before the participant did.


Therefore on these critical trials, the participants faced a dilemma(problem)


Should they go along with the other people present ?


Should they stick to their own judgements?


 The results of this experiment showed that


1) 76% of those tested went along with the group's false answers at least once,

2) in fact , they voiced their agreement with these errors about 37% of the time. 

3) 12 out of 50 participants never conformed. Some of these 'independent' participants were confident in their judgements.However, they experienced tension and doubt but managed to resist the pressure of the group



Factors Affecting Conformity


Group Togetherness

Asch investigated the effects of shattering the groups togetherness (by having one of the accomplices break with the others).


He did this by


A person giving the correct answer becoming an 'ally' of the real participant.


Results indicated that conformity was reduced


Asch investigated the size of the group and conformity.


He discovered if the group only consisted of 2 people  conformity level dropped Asch found that conformity increases with group size upto about 6/7 members but any more conformity will start to decrease. 


Asch investigated the type of the task and conformity, he discovered if the task details were left unclear or if the task was made more difficult, that this would increase conformity.



In conclusion - It seems to be the togetherness of the group that is crucial to conformity: it is much easier to resist group pressure when such togetherness is lacking.



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