Outline and Evaluate Explanations of Conformity

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Asch believed that conformity was a rational process and so wanted to assess if a minority would conform to a majority even if the majority was clearly wrong. Asch had participants carry out a line judgement task in which they had to indicate which of three comparison lines was closest to a standard line presented on two lines. Asch used 123 male student participants that were divided into groups of 7 to 9 seated around a table. In actuality, in the groups, only on of them was a participant (he was naive to this) and the rest were confederates – the participant was also always seated second to the end of the row so that he would not be the last to answer. The group were asked to indicate and on a signal from the researcher, the confederates would give unanimous wrong answers on 12 of the 18 trials for each experiment. Answers were also always unambiguous so it was clear. Asch found that the overall conformity rate was 37%, and 5% of participants conformed on every trial and 25% never conformed. When asked why they conformed, participants gave a number of reasons: some felt their perceptions were wrong upon hearing different answers from the group, others stated that they believed the rest were wrong but they did not wish to stand out and it was reported that some participants grew increasingly nervous and self-conscious through trials. Asch concluded that a strong, large group can exert intense pressure to conform, even more so if they are unanimous in their opinions. A weakness of this study is that it is a limited sample – participants were all male students so we cannot generalise to other groups of people. Another weakness is that this study may lack historical validity – it is conceivable that the time and place of which the study was carried out may have affected the results. For example, the 1950s was an era known for its pressure to conform, so maybe
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