conformity and obedience

Topics: Milgram experiment, Stanford prison experiment, Asch conformity experiments Pages: 6 (1936 words) Published: January 19, 2014
This Essay will discuss the factors influencing the behaviour of Mark, in relation to conformity and obedience. Should he comply and obey with his officer’s strict instructions to work alone, or will he stop to help a fellow trainee. Mark is a soldier on training in the Brecon Beacons, he is under order to work alone and not to stop to help anyone. Mark is working well and is on track with about 5 other soldiers who he already knows. Whilst running through the country, Mark hears a colleague (whom he has not met before) shouting for help.

Conformity is a type of social influence involving a change in behaviour, attitude or belief in order to fit in, these changes are in response to either real or imagined group pressure, such as the fear of rejection from a group, lack of information, belief that others are right or not wanting to upset others within the group, this occurs in situations, whereby individuals or small groups are exposed to a majority view. Obedience is not a social influence or response to group pressure, but a following of instruction usually by someone we see as higher authoritative status than ourselves, obedience is deeply implemented from an early age, when we are taught to obey parents, teachers and elders ( Pennington and Mcloughlin, 2008)

Through looking at studies and experiments of conformity and obedience it is plausible to suggest that in this case Mark will obey the orders of his officer and not stop to help the trainee. Mark will adapt to the expectations of his role, and continue without stopping this is known as identification Kelman(1958). There is no need for Mark to agree as he is simply playing to his role. Another influential factor on Marks decision will be, he is alongside a small group of friends in which he will not want to be seen to go against the group, for fear of rejection or ridicule and will also wish to gain the approval of his commanding officer, this is Normative conformity in which we are driven by the need or desire to gain approval and acceptance, Man (1969) as demonstrated in Solomon Asch’s conformity experiment, Mark may publicly accept but privately disagree with the decision to continue. (Mcleod, 2007)

In Asch's experiment, students were told that they were participating in a 'vision test.' Lines were presented onto a screen and the students were asked to answer which line out of three possibilities matched the target line. The students were unaware that the rest of the group in the experiment were fake (confederates) and had been asked prior to the experiment to give wrong answers and agreed on which answers to give. At first the confederates answered the questions correctly, but eventually began to give wrong answers, when the pre-planned incorrect answers were given over 70% of participants conformed to the group’s majority false views at least once (Heroic Imagination Project, 2013).

During the debrief at the end of the test, students were asked why they had given a wrong answer, when the correct answer was clear, the majority of students stated that although they knew the answers were in fact wrong they did not want to risk ridicule from the rest of the group, whist others actually thought there answers were correct. This evidence supports that Mark will conform as he will want to be accepted and not upset his fellow colleagues and also avoid rejection ( Pennington and Mcloughlin, 2008). Asch’s experiment may be criticised as the individuals may have been more inclined to give wrong answers to avoid conflict rather than fit in. Another criticism of the experiment is that it was conducted in a laboratory and did not replicate a real life situation; however, some expert opinions support these results stating that although real life situations may not be as clear cut as the laboratory environment, real life social pressure is far greater, resulting in increased conformity (Cherry, 2013).

This can be supported by the social impact theory which...
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