Section A – Social Influence
04 Outline Asch’s findings in relation to two variable affecting conformity. Briefly explain two limitations of Asch’s conformity research. [8 marks]
Suggested Answer: One variable affecting conformity is group size. Asch found that with just one confederate, conformity dropped to 3%; when it was two confederates conformity dropped to 12.8% and when it was 3 confederates, conformity it remained the same at 32%. A second variable is unanimity – this is the extent to which the majority agree. In one variation, one of the confederates gave the correct answer throughout and conformity dropped to 5%, in another variation, one of the confederates gave a different incorrect answer and here conformity dropped to 9%.
One weakness of the Asch experiment is that it lacks ecological validity. In Asch’s experiment, the participants were required to judge lengths of line, which is a very artificial task and everyday examples of conformity (e.g. peer pressure) do not involve such mundane requests. This matters because we are unable to generalise the result of Asch’s experiment to real-life situations of conformity and therefore we do not know that people would conform in the same way, in everyday life.
Another weakness of Asch’s experiment is that is lacks population validity. Asch’s original experiment was conducted on 123 male American participants. This matters because we are unable to generalise the results to females and non-Americans and we do not know that females and other cultures will conform in exactly the same way.
Exam Hint: Many students lost marks by providing a detailed summary of Asch's methodology which is not required. The question clearly asks for two variables affecting conformity and therefore the answer should focus on the results/conclusions. While students outlined limitations generally well these were not always elaborated or explained in enough depth and some students incorrectly used Perrin & Spencer to discuss temporal validity which is not appropriate.
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