Assignment on Psychology

An experiment was conducted with 224 participants of which 85 were males and 139 females. The experiment was conducted between undergraduate students from an Australian tertiary institute. The experiment reflected the Asch experiment. For half of the trials participants were subjected to confederates results while the other half they were placed in a situation where they made their own choices. They were presented with the target line and three test lines. The general trend showed that particpants were not influenced significantly by the confederate’s choices and made majorly their own choices.
The experiment was based on a study conducted by Solomon Asch in which he investigated the extent to which social pressure can effect a groups conformity. He believed that that underlying problem with Sheriff’s (1935) conformity experiment was the absence of a correct answer to the ambiguous autokinectic experiment. He questioned that how can a person be sure that there was conformity when there were no correct answers. There Asch (1951) designed what we today known as the classic experiment in social psychology where we use a line as a judgement task in which one line is the control and right answer. If the participants were to give a wrong answer, it was considered to probably be because of the group pressure. The experiment gathered 50 male students in a college from USA who thought they were participating in a vision test. Using a line as a judgement task, Asch added a naïve participant in the room with seven confederated. The confederates had agreed in advance about what their responses would be when presented with the task. Only the actual participant wasn’t aware and made to believe that the other seven confederates were also real participants. Asch measure the number of times each participant agreed to a majority value. About 32% of the participants conformed at least once and 25% never conformed. In the control group there was no pressure put on the participants by the confederates, therefore the results only had less than 1% wrong answer.
At the end of experiment, each participant was interviewed. Most of them said that, they did not really believe their conforming answers but went along with the group from fear of being made fun of. While a few others actually believed that the confederate groups choices were correct. It was concluded that people conform either because they wish to fit in a group or they believe that the group is more informed than themselves.
There was a gap identified in this experiment though. The sample used for the study was biased as all participants were male students who belonged to the same age group. This means that there was lack of diverse population and the results cannot be generalized for a single gender or other age groups. Furthermore, ethical grounds weren’t laid out which means that participants weren’t protected from psychological stress. There is evidence that suggests participants in Asch experiments can be highly emotionally unstable as reported by Back et al (1963), who presented findings about the participants of the experiment having increased levels of autonomic arousal.

Participants were 224 (85 male and 139 female) undergraduate students from an Australian tertiary education institution. All participants were required to be over 18 years of age and participated in return for credit as part of a unit of study. Failure to participate did not impact the participants’ progression in the unit of study. The mean age of the participants was 27.62 years (SD = 3.38); male mean age was 28.52 years (SD = 2.14), and female mean age was 26.85 years (SD = 3.86).
The conformity task used in this experiment was modelled on the original work of Asch (1956). Here participants were presented with a target line to the left of the screen and asked to select one of three test lines located on the right of the screen that most closely matched the target line on the left. Participants indicated their choice amongst the three lines by selecting the corresponding letter key on the computer keyboard.
On half of the trials presented (n=48), participants made their judgement based solely on the line stimuli presented (SELF trials), while on the other half of the trials participants were able to view the responses of five confederate responders listed to the far right of the screen (CONFEDERATE trials). See Figure 1 for a depiction of the two trial conditions. The CONFEDERATE trials were designed to mimic the Asch (1956) condition where the participant was required to respond to the stimuli in the presence of five in-person confederates. In the current study the confederates were not in-person responders, but rather responses pre-selected by the experimenters and presented to all participants on the same trials. To begin, all CONFEDERATE trials included responses that accurately indicated the matching test line. Following the first seven trials the remaining trials were divided between accurate (35%) and inaccurate (65%) responses.

Figure 1. Depiction of the two trial stimulus conditions (a) SELF trials where the participant is provide with no information about other responders selections and (b) CONFEDERATE trials where the responses of five confederates are provided.

Participants were seated before a computer screen at an approximate distance of 40-50cm. Participants responded throughout the task using the computer keyboard by pressing the keys [A], [B] and [C] to indicate their response on the experimental trials. Participants were required to log onto a secure server, Inquisit, which hosted the entire experiment. The experiment was divided into two stages; demographic questionnaire which collected information about participant gender, age, cultural background, level of education and household income (Stage 1), and the conformity task (Stage 2). Participation took approximately 25 minutes.
Prior to running the statistical analyses all data were screened for normality. As a result of missing data, the responses of 205 participants were retained for further analysis. Following the removal of the data of one participant, identified as a univariate outlier, the data was once again screened for normality and homogeneity of variance with no violations present.
The data was collapsed into two groups, collectivist and individualist, according to the work of Hofstede (1980) and a t test was conducted to determine whether a difference existed in the level of conformity between the two cultural groups. Conformity was determined by comparing the number of incorrect responses selected by a participant when completing SELF compared to CONFEDERATE trials.
Initial analyses revealed that in general, levels of conformity in this experiment were quite low, that is, when a participant made an error in line selection the error was not necessarily unique to responses made on CONFEDERATE trials; that is, participants made errors on trials where their decisions were based entirely on their own judgement and not impacted by confederates. On those trials where errors were made on CONFEDERATE trials approximately 35% of the errors were in agreement with the confederate responses, while 65% of errors were different to the confederate responses. Interestingly, on appraisal of trials where the Target Line did not match with any of the Match Lines (No Match Trials), the responses of the confederate selection did appear to be of greater influence. Specifically, on No Match Trials 81% of participant responses matched that of the confederates.
An analysis of the influence of culture on the conformity exhibited by participants was significant. As can be seen in Figure 2, individuals belonging to collectivist cultures tended to make more errors on CONFEDERATE trials than did individuals from individualist cultures. Importantly, the incorrect decisions made by individuals belonging to a collectivist culture matched the selection of the confederates on the trial. That is, these individuals did not merely make the wrong decision but instead that wrong decision was in line with the confederate majority. This suggests that individuals from individualist cultures are less impacted by the implied presence of others (n=34% of CONFEDERATE trials) and are more likely to oppose an opinion held by the (implied) majority than individuals from collectivist cultures (n=55% of CONFEDERATE trials).

Figure 2. The mean number of incorrect responses (in%) made in the CONFEDERATE condition for individuals from collectivist and individualist cultures where the response was consistent with the confederate line selection.

The present investigation was concerned with the relationship of conforming behavior with cultural pressure. ‘Current thinking has stressed the power of social conditions to induce psychological changes arbitrarily…and has taken slavish submission to group forces as the rule,’ such was observed by Asch in his 1951 paper which described his attempt to challenge the assertions in his now classic study of conformity. After thirty years, students of social psychology are so accustomed to the brief summaries sources of the ‘Asch effect’ as its one of the basic ideas that demonstrate compliance and conformity when facing social that one can fail to realize the comparative emphasis that Asch himself has included in his discussion regarding the phenomenon. Towards the end of his study, Asch had questioned, ‘In what ways are independent and conformity related to sociological and cultural conditions?’. Though there had been many studies which tried replication and adding to the original findings, a handful of researchers choose to specifically address cultural conditions which underlined ones conforming behavior as they assumed that the response by everyone would be the same when by a large majority. Milgram (1961) did, however, reported important differences in the rate of conformity between students from France and Norway. He attributed these differences to the gap in the social factors in these countries. Though he admitted that he wasn’t sure of these wider social factors, he speculated that France had a greater power on its citizens when it came to the spirit of indolence, which was reflected in their lower rates of conformity. There have been no published British republications in the year after or immediately, following the original Asch experiment and neither have the British journal editors recently received any report or manuscript which attempts to replicate the exact details. It is my belief that the social and cultural ideals obtained in the 1950’s and the 1960’s from the USA and to a certain degree in Europe contributed to the Asch effect. Especially the contemporary conditions among the university students, as they would be so difference from the earlier ones that a student’s response to the Asch’s experiment in that time would be very different from the present ones and not replicate the original results. Therefore, the ‘Asch effect’ can be seen as a product of a definite social and cultural conditions and therefore, it should be possible to make predictions about the style of response to the conformity pressures that are experiences from the description of the subjects’ social and cultural background. To test this the current paper will study 224 participants who are undergraduate students at an Australian tertiary institute. A situation could be produced where one can use Asch’s terminology, ‘personal costs would be involved in not yielding to the majority’, which could be created by placing ethnic minority group members in a group of confederates also from an ethnic group.
In the experiment conducted in the present study, 224 undergraduate students; 139 females and 85 males, participated from an Australian tertiary education institute. These participants were of variable ages but were over 18 years. They participated in exchange of extra credit as part of their class study.
Participants were shown a target line to the left of the computer screen and asked to make a choice between the three test lines, which were located towards the right of the screen. They were too asked to choose any one of the test lines as most closely matching the target line. Participants had to choose by pressing the key letter on their keyboards. In 48 trials, participants made judgements solely on the line stimulus presented in SELF trials, while the other half of the participants made their judgement based on the confederate responses which were listed to the far right of the screen. The confederates were not directly present in front of the participants but rather their responses were pre-selected. The data was put in two groups, the collectivist and the individualists, based on the study by Hofstede (1980) to determine whether a difference existed in the level of conformity between two cultural groups. The general trend shows that the level of conformity in the experiment was quite low; participants errors were based solely on their individual decisions and not confederate influence. 35% of the errors were made on confederate trials as participants made errors by agreeing with the confederate response. 65% of the participants made errors but they were different from the confederate’s responses. An interesting observation was that in the task where the target line did not match any of the no match lines, the responses of the confederate did not make the greater influence. Individuals who belonged to the conformity exhibited participants was significant. The reason why most participants made their individual decisions could be because the confederates were not present their directly when they were performing trials. Similarly, others could have made errors because their social background always has been influenced by the presence of more influential people in their lives. While the others who made errors not matching the confederate’s responses could have been genuinely confused between the lines provided.

Asch, S. E. (1956). Studies of Independence and Conformity: I. A minority of one against a unanimous majority. Psychological Monographs: General and Applied, 70(9), 1-70.
Hofstede, G. (1980). Culture’s Consequences: International Differences in Work-Related Values. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.
Milgram, S. (1961). Nationality and Conformity. Scientific American, 205(6), 45-51. doi:10.1038/scientificamerican1261-45
Perrin, S., & Spencer, C. (1981). Independence or conformity in the Asch experiment as a reflection of cultural and situational factors. British Journal of Social Psychology, 20(3), 205-209. doi:10.1111/j.2044-8309.1981.tb00533.x
Back, K. W., Bogdonoff, M. D., Shaw, D. M., & Klein, R. F. (1963). An interpretation of experimental conformity through physiological measures. Behavioral Science, 8(1), 34.
Sherif, M., & Sherif, C. W. (1953). Groups in harmony and tension. New York: Harper & Row.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *