Evaluation of Asch

Essay by DESTROYUniversity, Bachelor'sA-, October 2006

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'The Asch Studies' were a series of experiments designed to test humans' tendency for conformity. Asch's work was a direct response to the work of Sherif, although Sherif was technically studying the process of norm formation in new groups. The reason why Asch wanted to improve on Sherif's work is that he believed that Sherif only achieved the results he did due to the ambiguity of the task; in other words, the participants had no idea what the correct answer was and so considered their best bet to agree with everyone else. Asch designed a test in which the correct answer was obvious, and yet all the other so-called participants (really actors and confederates of Asch) declared the same wrong answer to be the correct one. Asch believed this was a true test of conformity as any participants who went with the majority and selected the wrong answer too would be denying what they could clearly see to be correct.

Asch found that in 32% of the trials the naive participant conformed to the incorrect answer unanimously declared by the confederates and 74% of the naive participants conformed at least once.

Many of the criticisms of Asch's work relate to his sample. As Asch only used male college students from the USA as his naive participants his findings are not only androcentric, but ethnocentric too. In order to have taken a fair sample not only should Asch have used female participants and participants from countries other than America; but he should also have used participants who had never attended college, pursued all different career paths, belonged to different social classes and were varying ages.

Many also criticise Asch's work for being too era dependent. During the 1950s, when Asch's experiments were taking place, America experienced what was know as the...