Asch experiment

Asch experiment

Asch experiment

Asch's experiment (1956) is an experiment in social psychology carried out by psychologist Solomon Asch. It aims to demonstrate the influence and power of conformism on the decision of an individual within a group.

Purpose of the experiment

What is conformism? It is rallying to the idea of ​​the group even if you think it is wrong. You are sometimes going against your gut or your beliefs because the group tells you that it's right and socially admitted. The purpose of this experiment is to show that an individual's decision can be altered by the group's decision in certain circumstances.

The experiment

The psychologist invites a group of students (between 7 and 9 people aged 17 to 25) and shows them a line of a certain length (the test line). It jointly presents 3 other lines (A, B and C), one of which is the same length as the test line. The students, seated next to each other, must take turns telling which line among A, B and C is the same length as the test line. The operation is repeated 18 times, changing all the lines.
The exercise is not difficult (the length difference is quite noticeable) and the test subjects manage to answer it (at 99%) when they are alone.
Only one student (the "naive" subject) is the object of study. The others are accomplices and follow the directives of the psychologist (given in advance). Thus, the group gives the right answers during the first 6 questions and then binds to choose a wrong answer on the last 12 tests. The responses of the “naive” subject (which is systematically placed in the penultimate position so that almost the entire group has already answered) are then studied.
Variants are also used to determine the influencing factors (only one self-confident accomplice who is the first to answer, possibility of not saying his answer aloud for the naive subject, size of the group, unanimity of the group, addition of a partner who answers like the naive subject etc ...).


In the basic situation (group of 7 to 9 people), out of 123 “naive” subjects, 29 made no error, 39 made more than 50% of errors and on average 36.8% of the answers given by the subjects “ naive ”are wrong (face less than 1% when they are alone).
It should be noted that conformism is reduced by two thirds when the subject is not obliged to show his response to the group. Besides, there is only need for 3 accomplices to reach 30% wrong answers and the error rate is only 5% when the subject has a partner in the group who gives a different answer before him (importance of unanimity factor). The results also vary depending on other factors (attractiveness of the group, culture, need for affiliation, feeling of legitimacy, etc.).

Following the experiment, the subjects are interviewed. Many report confusion, stress or anxiety, others report being wrong and sometimes accuse their "poor eyesight". This last point is interesting because it recalls Milgram’s experiment in which the subject is relieved of his responsibility by an external factor. Asch’s experience is one of the works that inspired Milgram for his experience of submission to authority.

Funny experiences like a hidden English camera of people turning around in the elevator or people getting up in a waiting room have since supported Asch's experience. These demonstrations, although fun, ask us about our choices. How much can social pressure really influence them?

Written by Maxou (05/01/2020)
Views: 1532

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