Asch's conformity experiment

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Reference line and comparison lines.

The Asch Conformity Experiment , published by Solomon Asch in 1951 , is a series of studies that showed how peer pressure can influence a person to judge an obviously incorrect statement as correct.

Experimental setup

A number of people were seated at a conference table. The subject , who entered this room, we were told that it was to other voluntary participants in the experiment . In truth, however, all those present except the subject were confidants of the experimenter.

A line was presented to the group on a card. In addition to this reference line, three other lines were shown and it was the task of the persons to assess which of these three comparison lines was the same length as the reference line. In each pass, one of the lines was clearly identifiable as the same length as the reference line (see picture). In the control group , the experimenter's confidants should express their true opinion in the group as to which line is the same length. As expected, the test person sitting at the table with the secretly familiar makes hardly any mistakes under this condition (less than 1%).

18 estimates were made in each of the experimental groups . During six of these rounds, the secret confidants were instructed to deliver a correct judgment (in order to appear credible). During the remaining twelve rounds (mixed randomly among the six correct ones) the confidants should unanimously give a wrong judgment. In about a third of the rounds, the test subjects conformed to the majority despite an obviously wrong decision. Only a quarter of the test subjects remained unaffected; they did not make any mistakes in the 12 manipulated rounds either.


This original experiment was later replicated in a large number of variants. The following relationship emerged: the larger the group, the more conformity is generated. As the group size increases, the conformity rate asymptotically approaches a straight line. If the unanimity of the secret confidante is broken in the event of a wrong judgment, since one of them makes an even more obviously wrong judgment, the test subjects commit significantly fewer errors. In this case, they seem to have the confidence to express their correct minority opinion, since others also hold a minority opinion. Social support leads to a similar reduction in the conformity rate: If one of the confidants of the test subject agrees, they almost always insist on their correct assessment.


A number of criticisms were raised against Asch's experiment. a. the question of motivating students to be accurate. For example, critics argue that the experiment, rather than a test of peer pressure, tends to show the participating students' lack of interest in getting into a conflict over the correct answer. Furthermore, the participants in Asch's experiment were not allowed to interact. In implementation rounds in which an accomplice was allowed to give the correct answer, the rate of false consent by the test subject fell significantly.

See also


  • 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: I. A minority of one against an unanimous majority. Psychological Monographs , 70 (9), 1-70.
  • Stefan Klein : How does ideology arise? In: Zeit-Magazin. May 23, 2018, accessed June 15, 2018 .