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Asch Conformity Experiment

asch.jpg Solomon Asch and his conformity experiments


“ The human mind is an organ for the discovery of truths rather than falsehoods” - Solomon Asch

Solomon Asch is one of the leading psychologists of the 20th century. He was born in Warsaw, Poland but moved to the U.S. at age 13 where he received his education. He resided with his family in the lower east side of Manhattan where he remained until attending the College of the City of New York and graduated with his bachelor’s degree. After that, Asch went on to Columbia University where he received his master’s degree in 1930 and his Ph.D. in 1932. During the early years of World War II, Solomon worked as a Professor in Brooklyn College’s Psychology department. Later on, he also served as a Professor for 19 years at Swarthmore College and Professor of Psychology at the Institute for Cognitive Studies at Rutgers University. Solomon Asch became famous during the 1950’s for his series of psychological experiments, known as the Asch conformity experiments that demonstrated the effects of social pressure on conformity.
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The Asch conformity experiments were designed and conducted in 1951 as a way to investigate the extent to which social pressure from a majority group could affect a person to conform. He chose fifty male students from Swarthmore College to participate in a “vision test”. He then split the men into groups of eight where seven would be associates and one would be the outsider. The seven associates had already agreed on what their responses would be to the line judgment task questions, prior to the test, even if they were incorrect. By doing this, Asch was able to observe and compare the answers given by the outsider in relation to the answers of the other seven kids. The real participant, the outsider, did not know that the other seven had consulted their answers in advance, but thought they were all real and new participants like him. The entire group was given a line vision test where they were told to state aloud which comparing line they thought is most like the target line. Asch took careful precautions to make sure that the answers to the vision test were always obvious and easy so that the real participant would know the truth. Asch also set up the experiment so that the real participant sat at the end of the row of students and gave their answer after everyone else had given theirs.

Eighteen trials were performed total and everyone but the real participant gave the wrong answer, purposely, on a total of twelve trials. Asch’s overall goal was to see if the real participant would agree with the majority view, although he knew the correct answer. At the end of the experiment, Asch concluded that about 75% of the outside participants conformed at least once and only 25% never conformed to the clearly incorrect majority. Asch was also careful to set up a control group where there was no pressure to conform to associates since no one had agreed on answers in advance and found that less than 1% of participants gave the wrong answer.
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Overall, Asch’s experiment proves that one is most likely to conform if they are in a group setting. Even after the experiment, during an interview, the outside participants claimed that they did not really believe in their conforming answers but went along with the group because they didn’t want to be ridiculed or deemed weird. The main reasons for conformity are highlighted through the experiment, being that people want to fit in or they feel the group is better informed than they are. Asch’s experiments on conformity were a great way to examine the social construction of reality and inspire new research on the power of conformity. Asch’s conformity experiments greatly influenced the works of Stanley Milgram and set up the basis for his studies on obedience to authority.


The video above is not footage from the original 1951 experiment, but of a reenactment study done in the 1970's.



McLeoud,S.(2008).Asch Experiment. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/asch-conformity.html

Cherry,K. (n.d.). Solomon Asch Biography. Retrieved from http://psychology.about.com/od/profilesal/p/solomon-asch.htm

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