Explanations for conformity: variables affecting conformity including group size, unanimity and task difficulty as investigated by Asch.

 Variables Affecting Conformity Rates – Asch’s Study.

After Asch’s original study, he decided to carry out a number of further investigations to see if he could affect the level of conformity witnessed from the participants. Have a look at the table below – the situational variables are the factors that Asch manipulated in the experiment to see if they would affect the levels of conformity.

Situational Variable – A01 Linking back to Asch’s research – A03
Size of group – Research indicates that conformity rates increase as the size of the majority influence increases, but there does come a point where further increases in the size of the majority does not lead to further increases in conformity

 

 

 

Asch (1956) found the following results when using one real participant

1 confederate = low conformity rate

2 confederates = 13% conformity rate

3 confederates – 32% (similar to original study)

It should be noted that any increase beyond this (even up to 15 confederates) had no further effect on the overall conformity rate.

Unanimity – Conformity rates have been found to decline when majority influence is not unanimous (in agreement). The important factor though would seen to be in the reduction in the majority’s agreement, rather than an individual being given support for their opinions. Conformity rates drop even if the rebel doesn’t support the real participants viewpoint. Asch (1956) found that if there was one confederate who went against the other confederates, conformity dropped from 32% to around 5.5%.

If the rebel went against both the other confederates and the real participants, conformity still dropped to 9%.

Task Difficulty – Greater conformity rates are seen when the task difficulty increases, as the right answer becomes less obvious. This means that individuals will look to others more for guidance as to what the correct response is.

 

 

Asch (1956) increase task difficulty by making the comparison lines more similar to each other, findings that when he did so participants were more likely to conform to wrong answers; thus demonstrating the effect of task difficulty on conformity.

 

 

 

Take a look at the Asch Conformity Experiment in the video below. The video also shows some of the factors that can influence levels of conformity.

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