Studies‎ > ‎

ASCH CONFORMITY EXPERIMENT (1951)

Aim:

To investigate whether perceived group pressure by a majority can influence a minority in an experimental setup that is not ambiguous.


Procedure:

Seven male college students were placed around two white cards. One card had three lines (A, B, C) and another had one line. They had to say out loud which of the three lines on the right had the same length as the line on the left. There was one real participant (naive participant) in the experimental setup and six were confederates who were instructed to give unanimous wrong answers. This was done during 12 of the 18 trials in the experiment. A control group of 37 participants made the estimates alone for comparison.


Results:

In the control group 35 participants did not make a single error so in total 0.7% errors were made. In the experimental group, 75% of the participants gave an incorrect answer to at least one question while only 25% never gave an incorrect response.


Limitations and strengths:

A high degree of control ensures that a cause-effect relationship can be established between variables.

Asch’s results have been replicated several times so the results are reliable. The results of the experiment in terms of conformity rates can, to some extent, explain why people conform to social and cultural norms in real life. Conformity may be universal to some degree but conformity rates vary cross-culturally. Laboratory experiments are artificial and somewhat difficult to generalize to real life (issues of ecological validity).

The experiment was conducted in the USA with male students as participants so this affects generalization. The results can only explain how a majority may influence a minority but not the other way round. The participants were deceived about the purpose of the experiment and they were exposed to embarrassing procedures. This raises ethical issues.


Comments