Influences of Conformity and Obedience

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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. 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...
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