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To what extent has research supported the view that the majority exerts a significant degree of influence over the individual?

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Introduction

Azmeralda AbraheemPsychology Mrs Braude ?To what extent has research supported the view that the majority exerts a significant degree of influence over the individual?? The purpose of Asch?s experiment was to investigate into whether or not participants would conform in the presence of a group, making wrong judgements. In order for him to explain his hypothesis, he conducted an experiment involving 123 American male undergraduates. He showed a pair of cards to people around a table with one ?standard? line on it, and three other comparison lines, and asked the participants to vocally express which line they thought was a match to the standard line. The correct answer was always obvious (this reduced the chance of another variable being introduced into the experiment involuntarily) and within each group of 5-7 confederates, was only one ?naive? participant. From the experiment, Asch was able to find that 75% of the participants conformed at least once, 5% of the participants conformed every time and 25% of the participants didn?t conform at all. For the 75% that conformed at least once or of the 5% who conformed every time and gave obvious wrong answers, we can ...read more.

Middle

However, if we analyse Asch?s experiment and results more critically and in depth, we are able to see that there is much more to it than just this. When evaluating an experiment, we must look at important factors such as its internal validity. It could be argued that Asch?s study lacked internal validity and it wasn?t actually conformity, because the participants may have guessed the purpose of the study and simply gave wrong answers thinking that is what their mentor wanted them to do. This means that the majority doesn?t actually exert that much pressure and his results are inaccurate. On the other hand, in the post-experimental interviews, many participants freely admitted they gave wrong answers in order to be seen as a member of the group and to ?fit in? showing that they were conforming instead. Another factor we must look at it to assess the study fully is the external validity. Asch?s study lacked ecological validity because the study was a laboratory experiment which meant it was based in an artificial atmosphere and this situation is unlikely to ever happen in real life. ...read more.

Conclusion

1 in every 396 trails conformed which shows a very small amount of conformity compared to Asch?s 75%. They then repeated this but in a collection of probation officers (work) and got similar results to Asch which shows that conformity is more likely when the perceived costs of non-conformity are high (internalisation) Also, in his study, Asch used 123 male students only which also means the experiment lacks population validity as they don?t represent the wider population and therefore we are unable to generalise the results on the population as a whole. Thus meaning we cannot come to the conclusion that the ?majority exerts significant pressure? for definite. Studying all the information we have on Asch?s experiments, including the faults and findings, we could say that instead of showing human beings as being overly conformist, he managed to demonstrate a commendable tendency to stick to what we believe in as two thirds of the participants managed to stick to what they originally thought the answer would be. This shows independent behaviour rather than conformity, putting our conclusion to the majority can exert a certain amount of influence over an individual, but in most circumstances, people show more signs of independent behaviour than conformity. ...read more.

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