Oct 3, 2018 in Sociology

Conformity and obedience form important areas of social sciences studied in the contemporary society (Bandura, 1986). The two areas receive significant focus from psychology in general as well as scholarly reviews in the field of psychology. Some of the renowned proponents of these areas of study are Stanley Milgram and Solomon Asch. It is as well evident from research that conformity and obedience are part of important factors in group behaviour. The two fields of study, conformity and obedience, are established in group dynamics. However, there are clear cuts that indicate the variation between the two terminologies. This discussion will bring out as much as possible the differences between the two words as well as indicate their link. This is evident when considerations focus on group interactions.

Conformity in group association involves individual members transforming their beliefs and attitudes so that they match collectively as a group. At this level, the relationship between conformity and obedience comes out. For the members of a group that conform to collective responsibility within that specific group, they tend to indicate obedience and comply with what links them. For an individual to conform to group virtues, respective members must attribute a person as showing the authenticity and integrity to be a leader or affect the group’s behaviour (Conger & Kanungo, 1988). Lack of the group influence from the “leader”, conformity towards group goals and beliefs would be less common. On the other hand, failure of a group member to conform to the needs of that group results into losing authenticity with the other party members. Within the same definitional form, conformity has similar attributes to compliance. This is not entirely true since some disparities are evident when the two are analysed critically.

On the similarity scale, a person who conforms to specific ideologies complies with the values held in high esteem by the group. However, it is not necessarily true that a person who complies must conform. For compliance or obedience to emanate, a person links his actions to another person’s wishes of rule. This implies that compliance or obedience embraces the aspect of regulations. On the contrary, an individual that conforms indicates a disposition that offers him an opportunity to give in to others. In this regard, it would be imperative to consider some attributes associated to conformity and those related to obedience (Bandura, 1986).

Conformity in the event of group relationships must show incidences of informational influence. This implies that an individual conforms to other people’s ideas when he or she holds a belief that others are correct in their viewpoints. It is also clear that conformity relates to normative effect. This results from agreement with other people’s perspectives out of fearing the prevalent negative social consequences of not fitting in the group. This concept comes out through Asch’s study in the social psychology. Moreover, conformity has a strong impact when the group increases constantly. There is a variation when the group reaches 4-5 individuals. Gender diversities as well have a great impact on the way people conform to each others perceptions in the group (Conger & Kanungo, 1988). These factors are not exclusive since aspects like awareness of norms, presence of allies, and age disparity, play a significant role in conformity.

Ideas about obedience seem to recur frequently in studies conducted by Milgram. In establishing factors associated with obedience, Milgram paired a participant with a confederate (Conger & Kanungo, 1988). This applied the impacts of punishment on learning. During the study, the participant functioned as a teacher as the confederate took on the responsibility of a learner. It was the teacher’s responsibility to give progressive levels of shock to the learner each time a learner provided a wrong answer. According to a group of psychiatrists, only a minimal percentage, approximately 1%, of the populace indicated maximal levels of shock. Out of this study, a number of factors linked to obedience were determined.

Obedience must have an authority figure. The power that this authority has over the rest of the group as well as his presence affects the magnitude of obedience to emanate from the group. The higher the power bestowed on the authority figure, the more people in that group will conform to the values of the figure. Similarly, the physical availability of the authority figure increases conformity within the group. Another significant factor is the proximity of the victim. People within a group are likely to obey orders when victims are not potentially within reach (Bandura, 1986). Milgram also proposed the personal responsibility as an imperative aspect of obedience in group dynamics. This implies that if an individual assumes personal accountability in the event of harm caused because of obedience, the degree of obedience decreases. Milgram asserts that obedience has to do with following orders without questioning. This works based on the fact that orders come from a legitimate authority recognised within the wide group interaction.

In conclusion, there is a thin line of disparity between conformity and obedience. As much as conformity involves people changing their beliefs voluntarily to align with others’, obedience has to involve a legitimate authority. This authority issues orders that must be followed by the members of the group. The two fields are embedded in the social psychology area of study.

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