Conformity & Obedience - Essay

1762 words - 8 pages

Word Count: 1,495
Department of Psychology & Sports Sciences

Discuss the similarities and differences between conformity and obedience. Support your answer with evidence from theories and research.

Social psychology is a school of thought that tries to apprehend how individual aspects of behaviour function in a social environment. Social influence is a part of social psychology that demonstrates how people's demeanour and conduct can be swayed by the direct or indirect presence of individuals. Social influence is based on norms. Norms are the unwritten rules of society that outline the expected behaviour and actions in social situations. They are shared attitudes and behaviours that characterise certain groups and segregate them among groups (Hogg & Vaughan, 2014). Conformity and obedience are both aspects that are included in social influence. Conformity is a form of social influence where an individual changes their opinions and/or beliefs in order to be part of a group. Conformity is an indirect aspect that happens due to perceived or imagined group pressure. Obedience is a second direct form of social influence that involves an individual's behaviour changing, following a direct order. It is thought that without being instructed to, the person would not have behaved in such a manner. This essay will provide insight into the various similarities and differences that conformity and obedience hold, with a final statement summarising whether they should be viewed as interchangeable or individual processes.

There are certain comparisons between conformity and obedience that suggest that they are quite alike. One comparable quality is that they both involve social pressure. More intrinsically, this social pressure leads to a change in behaviour. One way in which social pressure can be presented in conformity is through a change in behaviour. Jenness (1932) found that when he asked individual participants to estimate how many beans were in a glass and then estimate again within a group, they would not only conform to the group's estimate but afterward, when asked if they wished to change their initial estimate, almost all participants altered their answer to be closer to the group's estimate. This change in behaviour is due to social pressure, and can also be found in obedience when obeying social roles (Zimbardo, Banks & Haney, 1973). It was found in The Stanford Prison experiment that the participants obeyed the roles that they were allocated as either prisoners or prison guards and that the social pressure associated with their assigned roles, forced them to change their behaviour to fit the role accordingly.

Another relationship between the two types of social influence is that they both request compliance with the command. Although conformity is not following a direct order, it can be argued that it is still expected that the individual will conform to the group and change their behaviour to match. It is thought that members...

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