Conformity Experiments

Conformity Experiments

The Asch Conformity Experiments

The Asch conformity experiments were a series of psychological experiments conducted by Solomon Asch in the 1950s. The experiments revealed the degree to which a person’s own opinions are influenced by those of a group.

Asch found that people were willing to ignore reality and give an incorrect answer in order to conform to the rest of the group.

Imagine yourself in this situation: You’ve signed up to participate in a psychology experiment in which you are asked to complete a vision test. Seated in a room with the other participants, you are shown a line segment and then asked to choose the matching line from a group of three segments of different lengths.

The experimenter asks each participant individually to select the matching line segment. On some occasions, everyone in the group chooses the correct line, but occasionally, the other participants unanimously declare that a different line is actually the correct match.

So what do you do when the experimenter asks you which line is the right match? Do you go with your initial response, or do you choose to conform to the rest of the group?

Asch’s experiments involved having people who were in on the experiment pretend to be regular participants alongside those who were actual, unaware subjects of the study. Those that were in on the experiment would behave in certain ways to see if their actions had an influence on the actual experimental participants.

Results of the Experiments

Nearly 75% of the participants in the conformity experiments went along with the rest of the group at least one time. That is, the participants decided to give incorrect answers and not contradict the group.

See also  False Consensus

After combining the trials, the results indicated that participants conformed to the incorrect group answer approximately one-third of the time.

The experiments also looked at the effect that the number of people present in the group had on conformity. When just one confederate was present, there was virtually no impact on participants’ answers.

The presence of two confederates had only a tiny effect. The level of conformity seen with three or more confederates was far more significant.

Asch also found that having one of the confederates give the correct answer while the rest of the confederates gave the incorrect answer dramatically lowered conformity. In this situation, just 5% to 10% of the participants conformed to the rest of the group (depending on how often the ally answered correctly).

Later studies have also supported this finding, suggesting that having social support is an important tool in combating conformity.


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