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Psychology

Study Notes

Conformity - Variations of Asch (1951)

Level:
AS, A Level
Board:
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Following Asch’s original research, numerous variations of his line judgement task were carried out. These variations include: group size, unanimity and task difficulty.

Group Size

Asch carried out many variations to determine how the size of the majority, affects the rate of conformity. These variations ranged from 1 confederate to 15 confederates, and the level of conformity varied dramatically. When there was one confederate, the real participants conformed on just 3% of the critical trials. When the group size increased to two confederates, the real participants conformed on 12.8% of the critical trials. Interestingly, when there were three confederates, the real participants conformed on 32% of the critical trials, the same percentage as Asch’s original experiment, in which there were seven confederates. This demonstrates that conformity reaches it’s highest level with just three confederates.

Asch continued investigating group size and in one condition he used 15 confederates. In this experiment the rate of conformity slightly dropped, although Asch didn’t report the percentage. It is possible that the rate of conformity dropped because the real participants became suspicious of the experiment and not because the pressure to conform is less, in larger groups.

Unanimity

In Asch’s original experiment, the confederates all gave the same incorrect answer. In one variation of Asch’s experiment, one of the confederates was instructed to give the correct answer throughout. In this variation the rate of conformity dropped to 5%. This demonstrates that if the real participant has support for their belief, then they are likely more likely to resist the pressure to conform. Furthermore, in another variation, one of the confederates gave a different incorrect answer to the majority. In this variation conformity still dropped significantly, by this time to 9%. This shows that if you break the group’s unanimous position, then conformity is reduced, even if the answer provided by the supporter, is still incorrect.

Task Difficulty

In Asch’s original experiment, the correct answer was always obvious. In one his variations he made the task more difficult, by making the difference between the line lengths significantly smaller. In this variation Asch found the rate of conformity increased, although he didn’t report the percentage. This is likely to be the result of informational social influence, as individuals look to another for guidance when completing the task, similar to the results found in Jenness’ experiment.

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