The Asch Conformity Experiment and Its Implications

The Asch Conformity Experiment and Its Implications


Social Psychology is a field of psychology that aims to study the behaviour of human beings in a social context. It examines how our behaviour, ideas, feelings, and emotions are affected by the presence of others in an environment. Group behaviour, peer pressure, interpersonal relations, prejudice, and conformity are some of the major concepts studied in this field. The information on these is derived from social experiments conducted by psychologists in the past. The Stanford Prison Experiment, the Bystander Experiment, and the Asch Conformity Test remain some of the important ones. These tests have been replicated several times over the many years, and hence remain valuable in the study of psychology.

The Asch Conformity Experiment

The Asch Conformity Experiment is a popular experiment that is used to study group behaviour and conformity. It was designed by the pioneering social psychologist Solomon Asch. In this test, he studied how individual cognition can be affected by external influence when in a group.

Experiment Design

For this experiment, Asch seated several students in a classroom, some of which were confederates or actors who already knew the experiment, while others were unaware of it. He then showed them a picture and asked them to match the target line to the line which they believed was equal to it.

Experiment Procedure

In the first few rounds, the actors were asked to respond first and were told to give the correct answer. This affected the opinion of the others, and the subjects began to give similar answers, despite whatever their personal opinion was. In the later rounds, the Confederates started to change their answer to the wrong option. Hence, even though the participants knew what the correct answer was, due to the first trials, they began to doubt their choice and shifted their opinion according to the majority.

Results and Analysis

Eighteen such trials were conducted with 123 subjects. When the experimenters analyzed the results, they concluded that:

  • 23% of the students always gave the right answer,
  • 72% conformed with the majority at least once,
  • 5% of them were always with the majority group, giving the wrong answer.

This change in opinion was due to peer pressure. According to his analysis, Asch concluded that the opinion of a minimum of 3 students was needed to get the majority group to reconsider their opinions.

Implications of the Experiment

Groupthink and Peer Pressure

The success of this experiment and its replicability over time have led to further exploration in the domain, leading to the ideas of groupthink and peer pressure. Several examples of this can be seen in our daily life as well.

Social Media Influence

With changing times and expanding technology, social media is now more accessible than ever before. This increased access and continuous exposure leads to youngsters succumbing to the changing trends owing to the need to identify with the majority and remain relevant in changing times. This sometimes also leads to unhealthy comparisons with others. It also kills the individuality and uniqueness of a person which was supposed to make them stand out from one another.

Education and Peer Pressure

Similarly, the expression of peer pressure can be largely seen in the domain of education, where students today feel the need to excel and prove themselves due to the growing competitiveness and comparison among them. When cohesive group behaviour is within a certain limit, it is beneficial for the students as it becomes a source of motivation for each other. Here, group conformity leads to increased self-esteem. But when this cohesiveness and comparison reach unhealthy levels, it begins to take a toll on mental health due to the dissonance between personal and external needs, eventually forcing students to take extreme steps in certain severe cases, by indulging in self-harm or even suicide.

Household Conformity and Obedience

This constant comparison of different domains of life on social media takes place almost subconsciously. It eventually makes a person look down upon themselves, based on an unreal projection of the life of another person on these public platforms. Similar forms of compulsive conformity can be seen within the household as well. It increases when there are elders involved in the situation because one is expected to accept and uphold their opinions and decisions out of respect and reverence. This is done despite the cognitive dissonance between the two parties or opposing opinions they may possess. This is referred to as obedience and is an example of conformity out of respect.


Over the years, several studies have been conducted to assess the effects of this need for social conformity and cohesion and the peer pressure it leads to. These studies have dealt with understanding its effect on different ages, genders, and social groups. In most cases, this need for cohesiveness has proved detrimental, more specifically in cases related to gender because of the prejudices and the expectation to conform to society’s pre-established gender norms.

References +
  • Asch’s Conformity Experiment on Groupthink
  • Lally, M., & Valentine-French, S. (2018). Introduction to Psychology.

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