Influences of Conformity and Obedience University of Phoenix Influences of Conformity and Obedience Imagine a hospital reception desk. A nurse receives a phone call from a doctor he or she does not recognize. This doctor instructs the nurse “to administer a non-prescribed drug in double the maximum dosage to a patient” (Jacobson, 1978, par. 1). Many people believe only a few nurses would commit this act but out of the 22 nurses called, 21 of them, followed the doctor’s orders (Jacobson, 1978). This experiment in obedience is an old one.
This example was simply a test to see if Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiment could be applied outside of the research arena. Many will say that much has changed now, and in some ways they have, considering the legal implications of medicine, yet sadly, this behavior still occurs today in many other areas of life. One reason many students begin learning psychology is so he or she can learn about human behavior. Some behavior has often created more questions than provided answers. Some of the behavior relates to conformity and obedience.
Don’t waste your time!
Order your assignment!
What makes people obey those in authority without question or what makes people dismiss individuality for conformity and why do only some people conform and others do not. These are only a few questions that necessitate an answer. In the following pages are attempts to explain and answer some of these questions. In addition, is an analysis of a classical and contemporary study concerning the effect of group influence on the self? The Concepts of Conformity and Obedience Conformity and obedience may appear to have similar meaning in context but both require something different from the individual.
Dr. George Boeree, states there are diverse types of conformity (Boeree, 1999). Most of the time people conform because they are taught in early childhood to accept and behave a certain way because that is simply how things are done; because it is the norm or “the unwritten rules of behavior” (Fiske, 2010, p. 531). Sometimes conformity happens intentionally. People often join groups because they want to belong. The group may have similar values or goals therefore the individual will needs to adopt the norms of the group to assimilate (Boeree, 1999). Often people conform because of force.
If a person is holding an individual at knifepoint will do whatever the knife wielder tell them in most situations. However, most people are not forced to conform but are still not fully aware of all the implications. This could be that some place in the middle conformity. This type of conformity occurs for various reasons, such as “social anxiety, fear of embarrassment, discomfort at confusion, a sense of inferiority, or even a desire to be liked” (Boeree, 1999, par. 1) this type of conformity was demonstrated by Solomon Asch in his line length study.
Obedience is very similar to conformity with the biggest difference being the influence of authority and not to social pressures. Obedience is the term parents often use when they want compliance from their children or when the police officer tells the individual to step out of the car. Obedience is all about authority. In some instances, it is difficult to discern the difference between conformity and obedience. For instance, in Nazi Germany during WWII the Jewish population conformed to the standards set by the Regime of the Nazis without much fight.
Some may believe it was obedience to authority figures, but it is more believable that the Jewish population conformed to the norms for them, as it was a gradual process and not an immediate one. The obedience that did occur during this time was that of the Soldiers, who obeyed the authority figures to commit the atrocities so often noted. One way to discern the difference of obedience and conformity is by reflecting on previous studies. Analysis One classical study of obedience is the Stanly Milgram experiment. In this study, one student is the learner and the other, the unknowing participant is the teacher.
This decision is controlled as well. When the experiment begins, the teacher is asked to administer shocks for every wrong answer the learner offers. The learner is a willing, unharmed participant but the teacher does not know this at the time. Progressively the situation grows worse. The learner is not doing well, yet the teacher keeps administering shocks. In this study, 65% of the teachers obeyed fully, which means the teacher administered the most severe shocks available (Fiske, 2010). In the previous example, many may mistake the teacher as cold and heartless, much like the German Soldiers.
Most of the people involved in both instances were normal people; not people with mental defects. Often a reduction in obedience is obtained by introducing different variables. Variable such as proximity to the victim with this variable the victim becomes real to the experimenter or teacher or maybe it is simply guilt and it is too much with the victim developing the ability to see the teacher. In addition, the removal of the authority figure lessens the degree of obedience if the person giving the directions is not authoritative, or someone considered knowledgeable, the degree of obedience lessens (Boeree, 1999).
A classic experiment in conformity is that of Solomon Asch and his many students. In his experiment he wanted to see if the test subjects, who knowingly had a correct answer would answer incorrectly if everyone one else did, especially if everyone else made it appear as if the correct answer was not the “correct” decision. The first time, the subject does not often conform but after receiving what appears to be looks of disapproval for the correct answer, the second time the experiment is conducted 35% of the time, the wrong answer is given simply to be on the in with those who got the answer wrong.
Many variables can change the outcome of how much a person commits to conformity. Variable such as culture, gender, difficulty of the task, and the relationship values as with how large the group, or how cohesive they are, such as close family and friends (Boeree, 1999). Although it may appear that these experiments are outdated, repeatedly replications of the study have been shown as well as variable changes added. However, the classic studies are not the only studies that provide research into conformity and obedience. One recent study used 20 Midwives in North Yorkshire.
These 20 were from seven different places therefore the culture of one organization could be ruled out as the reason for the response. “Results showed that midwives respond to social influence from senior people using two processes: obedience and/or conformity. Thirteen (65%) excerpts informed that participants’ interpreted direction from the senior person as instructions they were expected to follow (obedience) and seven (35%) showed that others voluntarily changed their viewpoint to agree with the one offered by the senior person (conformity).
Participants’ behavior has been explained in terms of ‘legitimacy’, ‘perceived obligation to the organization’ and ‘social identification’, these pressures created conflict between the midwives’ knowledge of how they would prefer to behave and concern to please authority or fit into the social group” (Martin, & Bull, 2008, p. 2). Individual and Societal Influences Individuality most people say he or she believes. However, conformity, compliance, and obedience are the norm.
From childhood, people learn to comply with the wishes of others because it makes their lives better, to conform to society to keep from being an outsider and to obey those who are supposed to know what is best. In some instances none of this matters, some people deviate from the norm to stand out and be different. Social Identity theory does not explain the non-conformist. Sometimes deviation from the norm is not a positive. In many instances, those that deviate from the norm are mentally ill, or if the norm is formalized, pertaining to laws one could imagine a criminal committing deviant behavior (Boeree, 1999).
Many deviates often describe themselves as different and are proud to be a part of the non-conformist group or anti-conformist. These people live on the outside boundaries of society. Aside from the negative deviates, some people who go against the norm are healthy individuals. In some instances psychologist would probably say, he or she was the healthiest individuals mentally. Abraham Maslow would have deemed these people high in self-actualization. Self-Actualization is “the highest level of the hierarchy, the level represents the need to be what one potentially is” (Goodman, 1968, p. ). Maslow offered characteristics for those self-actualized and several of those characteristics pertain to how these individuals perceive society and themselves. The characteristics that non-conformist or self-actualizers notable are, “they are unique and value autonomy” (Kermally, 2005, p. 5). Clearly one who likes to commit to action on his or her own would not fall victim to the group processes, as this would appear obvious. Most that deviate from norms have no problem trusting in their own experiences and not relying on that of others. They are creative and original in their thinking” (Kermally, 2005, p. 5), which means they are independent thinkers. “They possess compassion and humanity, they like to form intimate personal relations and they accept people as they are rather than as they would wish them to be” (Kermally, 2005, p. 5). In other words, non-conformist allows others to be themselves as they are. They do not expect conformity of another; in addition, by forming intimate personal relations, he or she learns individual differences from within. The non-conformist would have to be, self-disciplined.
Conclusion No solid answers are forthcoming about why people behave the way they do. No one knows for sure exactly, why people fall victim to conformity and obey unquestioningly. Many variables do help explain some but not all can ever fully explain the powerful influence groups or authority figures have on the individual. In the previous pages, a tentative answer was offered to some of the question asked about conformity and obedience. In addition, an analysis of a classical and contemporary study concerning the effect of group influence on the self was given.
In addition, as what makes non-conformist, non-conformist and how they can be whatever it is that they want to be without the worry of what will others say or do in reaction. References Boeree, G. (1999). Conformity and obedience. Retrieved from http://webspace. ship. edu/cgboer/conformity. html Fiske, S. T. (2010). Social beings: Core Motives in Social Psychology (2nd ed. ). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. Goodman, R. (1968). ON THE OPERATIONALITY OF THE MASLOW NEED HIERARCHY. British Journal of Industrial Relations, 6(1), 51-57.
Retrieved from Business Source Complete database. Jacobson, C. (1978). ON THE MEANING OF REPLICATION. Journal of Health ; Social Behavior, 19(4), 442. Retrieved from SocINDEX with Full Text database. Kermally, S. (2005). CHAPTER FOUR: Abraham Maslow (1908-1970). (pp. 25-34). Thorogood Publishing Ltd. Retrieved from Business Source Complete database. Martin, C. , ; Bull, P. (2008). Obedience and conformity in clinical practice. British Journal of Midwifery, 16(8), 504-509. Retrieved from CINAHL Plus with Full Text database.