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Asch (1951, 1952, 1956) - Conformity (Humans have the need to belong)

Experiment: Asch’s paradigm - page 48 Oxford Revision Book
Aim: To test conformity under non ambiguous conditions
Method: Subjects - All male American, 6-7 in a room, one true participant and rest are actors.
Procedure: One participant and confederates were asked to enter a room. True participant did not know the rest were actors. A researcher told the group that they were going -to be taking part in ‘a psychological experiment on visual judgement’. Participants were asked to select the line from the second card that matched the length of the line on the first card. True participant is always asked second last or near the end.
Findings: Around 75% of participants conformed in agreement with confederates at least once during the trials. Average rate of conformity is 32%. Around 24% never conformed. When interviewed, participants had reported to experienced some degree of self-doubt, and those ho conformed said they did not want to ruin experimenter’s results, just go along with the group or appear to be against the group. Some experienced the pressure of conforming.
Conclusion: Humans have the need to belong, therefore the majority were pressured to conform. Most of them conformed due to peer pressure and the looks other people give you if you answer wrongly. In the interview, most participants had self doubt.
Ethical: There was deception and participants could have experienced uncomfortable emotions.

  • Does prove conformity exists
  • Relatable to humans having the need to belong, one of the principles of Socio-Cultural Level of Analysis
  • Can be repeated


  • Only American culture, not others
  • Lacks ecovalidity, not in real life
  • Only male
  • Did not account for the minority who did not conform
  • 1950s time period
  • Ethics: participants were deceived
  • Scared of ruining experiment’s results (therefore show demand characteristics) and thus conforming not due to social pressure.

Related experiments: Perrin and Spencer (1988) - Replicated experiment to engineers and medical students, conformity rates were almost nil.
Stang (1973) - Participants with high self-esteem were less likely to conform to incorrect responses.
Different way of looking at Asch paradigm - Can minority opinion sway majority to change its views?
—> Moscovici and Lage (1976)

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