You’re in a math class, and the instructor asks a basic math question. What is 8 x 4? The teacher begins asking individual students in the room for the answer. You are surprised when the first student answers 27. Then the next student answers 27. And the next! When the teacher finally comes to you, do you trust your own math skills and say 32? Or do you go along with what the rest of the group seems to believe is the correct answer?
During the 1950s, psychologist Solomon Asch conducted a series of experiments (known as the Asch conformity experiments ) that demonstrated the impact of social pressure on individual behavior. You can conduct your own version of the conformity experiment. Participants were told that they were in an experiment on vision. With a group of other people, they were asked to look at three lines of different lengths and determine which one was the longest.
Participants were then placed with a group that they thought included other subjects in the study. In reality, the other individuals were actually confederates in the experiment. After a few trials where everyone stated the correct answer, the confederates all began choosing an incorrect answer.
So how did the participants respond when the other individuals in the group chose the wrong line as the correct response? When surrounded by other people citing the incorrect answer, 75% of the subjects gave an incorrect response to at least one of the line length questions.
So how do you think that you or your peers would react in a similar situation? If you are looking for a psychology experiment you can do for a class consider creating your own variation of the Asch conformity experiment.
Performing Your Own Conformity Experiment
The following are just a few ideas for things you could try for your own psychology experiment:
How does group size impact conformity? Try the experiment with different numbers of confederates to see how many other people must be present before a person starts conforming to the group.
What affect does age have on conformity? Try the experiment with participants in different age groups to see if the results differ.
What impact does gender have on conformity? Are women more likely to conform if the other participants are other women? Are men more likely to conform if the other participants are male? Try different variations to see what effect gender may have.
Asch, SE (1951). Effects of group pressure upon the modification and distortion of judgment. In H. Guetzkow (ed.) Groups, leadership and men. Pittsburgh, PA: Carnegie Press.
Asch, SE (1956). Studies of independence and conformity: A minority of one against a unanimous majority. Psychological Monographs, 70 (Whole no. 416).