Social influence is the change inbelief or behaviour in response to real or imagined pressure from a person orgroup of people which is known as the majority influence (REFERNCE FROM A LEVEL BOOK). It can also be defined as”an attempt to understand and explain how the thoughts feelings, and behavioursof individuals are influenced by the actual, imagined or implied presence ofothers” (Gordon Allport, 1954, p.5) According to Kelman, there arethree types of conformity: compliance, identification and internalisation. Solomon Asch’s line study is aresearch study for conformity, specifically compliance. He wanted toinvestigate whether people would conform to social norms. Compliance is whenpeople agree with views in public, but disagree in private making it atemporary change. For example, laughing at a joke simply because everyone elseis laughing although you may not find it funny.
This can explained throughnormative social influence. This is the norm or typical behaviour in a socialgroup. Therefore, people conform to fit in as they fear rejection and want togain approval. Asch conducted his line study ashe wanted to investigate whether people would conform to the majority in asituation where an answer was obvious.
His study consisted of 123 American maleundergraduates, there were seven participants in every group which were all presentedwith a standard line and three comparison lines. In each group there was onlyone true participant and six confederates, the naïve participant was unawarethe rest of people in the group were confederates. Asch found that the naïveparticipant conformed 36.8% of the time, 25% of the participants did notconform at all, and 75% conformed at least once. When participants wereinterviewed after, most of them said they conformed to avoid rejection whichsupports the normative social influence explanation.
Asch’s paradigm had five variations:group size, private answers, having an ally, importance of a group &collectivistic vs individualistic societies. In his group size variation, hewanted to know whether the size of the group would be more important than theagreement of the group. He found that with three confederates, conformity tothe wrong answer rose to 31.8%. A strength of Asch’s study isthat it is research support for normative social influence. In view of the factthat Asch found that many of his participants went along with a clearly wronganswer just because others did as they said that they feared disapproval. Whenhe repeated the study, he made participants write their answers instead whichled conformity rates to drop by 12.5% therefore supporting normative socialinfluence because people wanted to gain social approval.
Asch’s study lacks ecologicalvalidity as it is based on people’s perception of lines. Therefore, it doesn’treflect the complexity of real life conformity. Therefore elucidating theimpression that his study was an artificial task which does not reflectconformity in everyday life which means that findings cannot be generalised toeveryday situations.
It also lacks population validityas the study was on carried out on American males making it ethnocentric. Inaddition, the sample used consisted of only males which leads to gender bias.Therefore, results cannot be generalised to people from other cultures or to females.As a result of this, his sample was biased which means that further research isneeded to determine whether males and females conform differently.Asch’s study is also unethical asparticipants were deceived as they were told the study was about perception oflines in regards to a vision test, not conformity.
Therefore, they could notgive informed consent which meant that they could have felt embarrassed whenthe true nature of the study was revealed. However, deception was needed in orderto achieve valid results. This is because participants could have actedaccording to demand characteristics if they knew the true aim of the study.Another reason why his study was unethical was due to participants not beingprotected from psychological harm as participants felt stressed whendisagreeing with the majority. However, Asch did debrief them in the end and healso conducted a follow up session.