Psychology VCE: External factors analysis

Subject Area: VCE Psychology
Author:Victoria Eley, Sarah Cashin, Karen Hsu, Alice Nguyen


Case Study One: Asch’s Conformity Experiment

Solomon Asch investigated various factors that influenced conformity. One of his classic experiments involved participants being show three lines, which were compared to a ‘comparison line’ and being asked which of the three lines was equal in length to the ‘comparison line’. (See figure below):

It was hypothesised that participants would conform when there was large amounts of group pressure. Across a series of 18 trials, individual participants, amidst a group of confederates, were made to hear the wrong answer from the confederates in terms of which line was equal in length to the ‘comparison line’ even when the ‘comparison line’ was clearly a different length.


Results of the experiment are summarised in Table 1 below:


Percentage of participants who conformed at least once 75%
Percentage of participants who conformed on at least half the trials 33%
Percentage of participants who never conformed 24%
Overall mean percentage of conformity 33%


Task Description:

Students complete a discussion section of an ERA, including data analysis, generalisations and a conclusion based on a case study of Asch’s Conformity Experiment.  Students have 50 minutes to complete the task under exam conditions.

Curriculum links

Unit 2: How do external factors influence behaviour and mental processes?

Area of Study 2: How are people influenced to behave in particular ways?

Outcome 2: Key knowledge – “the influence of status and social power within groups, and obedience and conformity on individual behaviour, with reference to theorists including Asch, Milgram and Zimbardo”

Assessment: Analysis of data/results including generalisations/conclusions

Task Situation:

Unit 2 Outcome 2 in Psychology 2016 Study Design (

Students have finished social cognition, the influence of social power within groups and is starting conformity (Asch).


Procedural Properties

Purpose The purpose of this summative assessment task is to assess students’ ability to interpret data, draw conclusions consistent with evidence and discuss the implications of the research findings.  The summative assessment task is appropriate, measuring key science skills that permeate through Units 1-4 Psychology, and adequate, providing the teacher with enough information to make conclusions about student understanding of data interpretation and analysis.
Administer The task was administered under exam conditions, in one 50 minute period, building accuracy. Students worked individually and had no access to resources while completing the task, to ensure authentic assessment.
Record This assessment task was marked using a rubric, and students marks were kept in the teacher’s mark book. Written feedback was also provided for student improvement.  Marks were also recorded electronically (via Compass), and made accessible to both students and parents.
Interpret The mark from this task was interpreted as one third of the grade for this topic. Grades ranged from A to E as outlined by the Science Faculty as the school.  The combination of these three marks would determine whether students received an S or an N for Outcome 2 of Psychology (Unit 2, Area of Study 2).
Use This mark for this task was used as one of three tasks to determine whether students would receive an S or an N for Outcome 2 of Psychology (Unit 2, Area of Study 2).  However, students received a letter grade when the task was returned.   The task was used to give feedback to students of their understanding of their ability to interpret and analyse data.  The task was also used to provide valuable feedback to the teacher to inform future teaching (particularly for scaffolding an Evaluation of Research – a pertinent skill of Units 1-4 Psychology).


Outstanding Students at this level:

·         Integrates psychological terminology to support and emphasise key points within the discussion

·         Evaluates data to draw conclusions

·         Evaluates results to identify and explain limitations, and suggest alternative methods to avoid or eliminate such limitations

·         Generalises data to the population and explains why they have done so

High Students at this level:

·         Interprets and analyses data to explain results

·         Discusses results to support conclusions

·         Identifies and explains limitations of the study

·         Uses results to support generalisations to the population

·         Generate discussions using psychological terminology

Medium Students at this level:

·         Explains results from data

·         Explains limitations of the study

·         Generalises results to the population

·         Uses psychological terminology

Low Students at this level:

·         Identifies results from data

·         States limitations of the study



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