In many of the experimental research in social psychology, experimenters’ confederates were inevitable for creating the experimental setting required for the research goals. For example, one of the well-known classical research in social psychology is the experiment on conformity under social pressure by Salomon Asch in 1950’s. He showed people would conform to the majority even though their judgment was obviously incorrect. Naïve participants in the Asch experiments answered incorrectly conforming to the wrong answers of the majority participants that were confederates in reality.
The Asch experiments have been replicated by many researchers in a variety of experimental contexts. However, because it would need a set of confederates who would act appropriately to give a social pressure to naïve participants, few experiments have been conducted to investigate the conformity behavior of children. It is simply because it was difficult to obtain good child confederate for the experiments.
In Hanayama& Mori’s experimental study, published in Psychology 2011 vol.3 by Scientific Research Publishing, they showed 6-year old Japanese children tended to conform to the majority in the Asch line judgment tasks.They did not use confederates. Instead, they utilized the presentation trick that enabled to present two different visual stimuli on the same screen without viewers’ awareness of the duality. With this presentation trick, they presented a different task only to one of the foursomes of child participants. In this way, they investigated how a child would respond when his/her peers had a different answer. The important point here is that their peers who answered differently in the tasks were NOT confederates but that they answered differently because they were given different tasks. As a result, the naïve child participants under social pressure answered incorrectly conforming to their peers.
Yes, we all know through our daily experiences that small children tend to conform to the others. However, it was the first study that demonstrated it experimentally in the Asch experimental setting. The same experimental procedure may apply to an experiment for investigating the conformity of even younger children. It is an interesting open question in human development when children learn to conform to their peers.