Social Influence: AQA Asch research 16 markerWatch
Discuss Asch’s research into conformity (16 marks)
Asch wanted to investigate whether participants would conform to obviously wrong answers. Using an independent groups design, he took 123 male participants and sat them down in a room of 6-8 confederates, where the pps was sat either last or second to last in the line. They had been asked to identify which line matched the target line in order of their seats. Asch conducted 18 trials for each participant and had the confederates give out obviously wrong answers in 12/18 of these trials. He also used a control group of 7-9 participants that did not include any confederates. Asch found that 75% of participants conformed at least once, whilst 25% did not conform at all. In addition, 32% of the pps conformed more than once, whilst only 1% of those in the control group conformed within the study.
Asch also introduced variables in which could affect the conformity and chose to create variations of his baseline study in relation to these. These variations were group size, unanimity and task difficulty. He found that within the group size variation, conformity was low with only 1 confederate and 1 participant compared to 32% with 3 conf. and 1 pps. It was also concluded that conformity caps after 3 pps and does not make a difference on the conformity rate. With unanimity, conformity dropped to 5.5% when 1 conf. went against the group with the correct answer, and also dropped to 9% when 1 conf. went against the group with another incorrect answer. It was also concluded that pps are more likely to seek help from others and conform when an answer is less obvious (ISI).
Due to the use of 123 males, Asch’s study was deemed androcentric and had low population validity. This means the results couldn’t be generalised to the wider female population in relation to individual differences. In addition, all of the pps were American – this means we can’t generalise to other cultures as we’re unsure whether they’d behave in the same or in a similar manner to how Americans do. This, in turn, makes the explanation limited as Asch hadn’t taken other genders or cultures into account when he was accumulating the sample for this experiment.
Asch however, chose to study one variable at a time – this resulted in the experiment being deemed high in control over its variables. This helped Asch measure what was intended which lead to high internal validity. The study in itself is also repeatable due to this high control. It singles the variables out which means future researchers can take this on and repeat the study. However, it’s also repeatable because of Asch’s use of a lab study – unfortunately this lowers the ecological validity of the study due to the use of an artificial environment, as the pps could have realised what was really happening because of this, but also because of how unrealistic the study was – during a vision test, you wouldn’t be sat in a room with 7-9 other men and you wouldn’t be asked to identify the target line as this would not accurately represent whether your eyesight is poor or not.
Despite this high control, only 32% of participants conformed more than once. Asch failed to acknowledge the other 68% pps when releasing his conclusion of the study. This suggests that the study is more of a measure of resistance to conformity instead of an influence to conform. This, in turn, means that Asch’s study may not accurately represent conformity as much as was once believed and could further push his explanation into a limited one, much like how it’s limited in relation to individual differences.
Moreover, the participants were deceived. They were led to believe they were participating within a ‘vision test’ and were failed to be informed on the true aim of the study; however, if Asch had told the participants his true aim, this would have skewed the results greatly to the point that the study would be useless. This would have led to demand characteristics and false results. Despite the study going against ethical guidelines, the deceit was necessary in order to receive accurate enough results that can reflect conformity.