Variations on Asch’s experiment – How much does situation impact upon conformity?


A child of its time (Perrin & Spencer, 1980)

To further investigate the criticism that conformity in the Asch line experiment was due to the socio-political context of 1950s America, and therefore a ‘child to its time’, Perrin & Spencer (1980) repeated the experiment with British university students on science and mathematics courses, and found far lower rates of conformity than those reported by Asch. They then repeated the experiment again, but this time with participants who were young offenders and confederates who were recruited from probation officers, and found similar rates of conformity to the original Asch experiment.

As British students who were used to making judgements about the physical properties of things conformed less, and British young offenders who perhaps were unwilling not to conform because they feared sanctions from their probation officers were more likely to conform, then Perrin & Spencer concluded that the social and political situation people are in has a considerable influence on their tendency to conform. The Asch line experiment is, therefore, a ‘child of its time.’

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