September 3, 2011
Kelly Topp, Ph.D.
Group Influence on Self from a Classical and Contemporary View Human behavior is often strongly affected by other people and groups of people as well as the groups to which a person may belong. Groups usually have established norms that tell its members how they are expected behave as members of the group. According to Baron, Branscombe, and Byrne (2009), “Perhaps much more surprising is the fact that often, we are strongly affected by the mere presence of others, even if we are not part of a formal group” (Chapter 11, Effects of the Presence of Others, para.1). Individuals can also withdraw from groups if they believe that the group is no longer providing their needs or has changed to a point where the group no longer reflects their desires, beliefs, needs, or values. Both of the above-mentioned styles of interactions can greatly affect an individual and how he or she may come to terms within their role of self. These norms and expectations are a part of group influence and what is known as conformity and obedience. The subject of this paper will compare and contrast the concepts of conformity and obedience, analyze a classical and contemporary study concerning the effect of group influence on the self, and analyze individual and societal influences that lead to deviance from dominant group norms. A Comparison and Contrast of the Concept of Conformity and Obedience Group influence is a result of changes that result from indirect or direct interaction with groups of people. According to Fiske (2010), “Social influence broadly encompasses any changes in beliefs, attitudes, or behavior that result from interpersonal interaction” (Social Influence: Doing What Others Do and Say, Conceptual Definitions, para.1). As such, the main influence of social influence is that of norms and roles in interactive settings. Key concepts aid in describing and analyzing the concept of social influence. For the purpose of the subject of this paper, conformity and obedience are two of the concepts that will be discussed. Conformity and obedience are similar in context and meaning; however, each affects an individual differently and has distinct differences when one is to define each concept. Conformity
When one defines conformity, he or she must not forget to note that conformity exists in diverse types concerning individuals who are trying to fulfill their needs, wants, and desires. “Conformity is a form of social influence in which individuals change their attitudes and/or behavior to adhere to a group or social norm” (Shiraev & Levy, 2010, Social Interaction, Conformity, para.1). Conformity is taught at very early ages. Parents place expectations of behavior on children as early as pre-kindergarten years. As children begin to socialize with other groups of people, they continue to learn that conformity is the baseline of norms and is “the unwritten rules of behavior.” Sometimes conformity happens as a motivation to gain rewards or avoid forms of punishment. This form of behavior is known as compliance, and tends to bring hope to individuals in need. For example, if people are desperate because of a lack of a need, or poverty, they may comply because of what may seem to be a convincing solution to their problems. Another reason that conformity exist is to escape sanctions administered by a group of people. For example, a person who does not conform to the expectations and rules of a group may receive sanctions, such as fines, against him or her and becomes at risk of ostracism from the group. Along the line of sanctioning, another reason that a person might conform is to remain in the good graces of others by living up to the expectations of others. In this case it is usually true that the “others” represent a majority of people. For example, people visit other countries...