Variables Affecting Conformity in Relation to Asch’s Study

Variables Affecting Conformity: After Asch’s original study, he decided to carry out a number of further investigations to see which variables would affect the levels of conformity among 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 – A01Linking 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 participant1 confederate = low conformity rate2 confederates = 13% conformity rate3 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.

Use the information previously discussed to evaluate Asch’s study. Is it possible that there would be demand characteristics present in the variations of the study? Could the participants have guessed that was going on? Is the study ethical? 

Exam Advice:

Exam Preparation Tip: In the exam, it is likely that the examiners will want to see you apply your knowledge of psychology. Why not have a practice of your application skills by completing the following challenge… could you suggest ways Asch could have improved the validity of his study (i.e. could you suggest strategies that he could put in place to decrease the likelihood of demand characteristic etc?) Use our information on increasing validity to see if you can apply your knowledge and answer this question.

More application!! Can you suggest ways in which Asch could have improved the ethical criticisms of his study? Use our ethics page to help further practice your application!

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