Department of Psychology & Sports Sciences
Discuss the similarities and differences between conformity and obedience. Support your answer with evidence from theories and research.
Psychologist Allport (1954, retrieved from Social Psychology, Hogg and Vaughan, 2014, page 236) defined social psychology as an attempt to understand and explain how the thoughts, feelings, and behaviours are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others. One of the things social psychology investigates is social influences. Social influence can lead to several different outcomes, two of them being conformity and obedience. Obedience is a very direct social influence. It involves following the instructions given by a figure of authority. Conformity is an example of social influences acting in a much less direct manner. It is an alteration of an individual's behaviour and opinions due to a group that differs from theirs. Crutchfield (1955 retrieved from https://www.simplypsychology.org/conformity.html) defined conformity as yielding to group pressures. Conformity can be due to informational influences (where individuals use others as a source of information) or normative influences (where individuals want to be liked and accepted by others). In this essay, I will explore the similarity and key differences and between conformity and obedience.
The main similarity between conformity and obedience is that they are both forms of social influence, therefore both involve changes in behaviour in response to some form of social pressure. This may be implicit (conformity) or explicit (obedience). Jenness (1932) study the role of discussion in changing opinion regarding a matter of fact looking into conformity and how social pressure can change opinions. His study involved a glass bottle of 881 white beans and college students guessing how many there were. The experiment consisted of 3 stages. Firstly, participants made individual estimates, they were then placed into groups where they were allowed to discuss the number of beans they thought was present. The process then concluded with students being asked if theyd like to change their estimate or not. The vast majority changed their estimation to one much closer to the group's overall estimate. Jenness even reported that the range of one group decreased by 75% when asked to make their second estimate. This is an example of social pressure leading to conformity. Zimbardo illustrates people obeying due to social pressure in this Stanford Prison Experiment. In this experiment, students were split into two groups and then assigned as either prisoners or guards. The groups were then placed in a prison created by Zimbardo (1973) in the basement of Stanford University. The experiment was carefully designed in order to create the most realistic experiment possible. After being instructed on each of their roles, the participants adapted and changed their behaviours in order to fit their characters....