Outline and evaluate research studies Essays

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Outline and evaluate research studies into conformity. (12 marks
A piece of research done into conformity was conducted by Asch. He had 123 undergraduate Sociology American students. They were shown two cards and asked to match the standard line with the comparison line of the same length. They were also joined by 7 to 9 confederates. In the study the Participants were shown different lines 18 times and the confederates gave wrong answers 2/3 of the time. Asch found that when the confederate gave the right answers the participants made no wrong errors, however when the confederates gave the wrong answers the participants went along with them 37% of the time. He found that 5% of the participants conformed on every trial. 75% of participants conformed on at least one trial.
A disadvantage of Asch’s study is that the high levels of conformity reflect the norms of American society at the times. During 1950’s the cold war was going on in the US, so people didn’t want to appear different as this was frowned upon. This was supported by Perrin & Spencer as he did a similar study to Asch and found virtually no conformity in British engineering students. This suggests that social climate changes as in the 80’s they did less to encourage conformity. However, Perrin & Spencer have been criticised as they have only used engineering students as their participants so they are more likely to make exact measurements and therefore less susceptible to social influences in these circumstances.
Another criticism of Asch’s study is that his experiment raises ethical issues. Although participants were not physically harmed participants did feel mislead and this may have annoyed or upset them. Therefore participants may have felt pressured in a certain way. It could be argued that they have been psychologically harmed in some way. This was supported by Bogdonoff et al who did a study similar to Asch’s and found a raised blood pressure and increased heart rate within participants. Asch’s study also involved a level of deception due to this participants were not able