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Solomon Asch (1907-96) conducted pioneering social psychological experiments on group conformity, and processes of person perception. His conformity experiments are of particular importance. In these experiments, college students were told they were participating in a study on visual perception (by matching the length of one line to three others). In truth, the experiment was intended to measure the extent of conformity to group norms and perceptions, even when those norms/perceptions conflicted with their own interpretation of reality. After a series of confederates intentionally gave incorrect answers in the experiment, approximately one-third of the participants conformed to these incorrect answers in a majority of trials. Approximately one-fourth refused to conform in any of the trials. And, while the majority of individual responses given in the experiment reflected independence from the group, a clear majority (approximately three-fourths) of the participants displayed a capacity to engage in this extreme form of conformity at least once during the course of the experiment. Asch’s conformity experiments had a huge impact on the early development of social psychology, and served as inspiration for numerous future studies, including Milgram’s research on obedience and Zimbardo’s mock prison study at Stanford University.
Asch also conducted experiments on person perception that had an equally profound impact on the early theoretical development of social psychology. These experiments on central and peripheral personality traits led to a deeper understanding of how impressions of others are formed and structured.
- Asch, S. E. (1952) Social Psychology. Prentice Hall, New York.
- Asch, S. E. (1955) Opinions and social pressure. Scientific American (November): 31-55.
- Asch, S. E. (1956) Studies of independence and conformity: a minority of one against a unanimous majority. Psychological Monographs 70 (whole no. 416).