Conformity compliance obedience

            The theory is that knowledge is gained or influenced by the behavior and characteristics of other people, whether real, imagined or inferred.  This would also include attitude change, to group decision making and up to conformity to mob action like in the movie “The Wave”.  The first part of the process of being influenced by other people involves organizing and interpreting information about them so as to form first impressions, to try to understand their behavior and to determine what extent we are attracted to them.  This taking in and assessing information is social cognition and is how we acquire knowledge.  Individuals use impression formation, attribution and interpersonal attraction to gain what we know or come to believe.

            Situations individuals use to conserve mental effort are the primacy effect and self-fulfilling prophecy.  The primacy effect reflects a desire to lessen our mental efforts.  Instead of exerting ourselves to interpret every detail we learn about something, individuals will be stingy with their mental efforts.  Once individuals form impressions about something, they keep it, even if that impression was formed by jumping to conclusions.  Even if this first impression is inaccurate it can affect our behavior, just like in “The Wave” - Conformity compliance obedience introduction.  When some students were told to watch the other students because of distrust; it was this expectation of distrust that actually produced the actual distrust and it was a persistent behavior.  When we bring about expected behavior in another person in this way, our impression becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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            Conformity is a conflict between an individual and group.  It is a conflict that is resolved when the individuals yield their own preferences or beliefs to the norms or expectations of the larger group or mob mentality.  Compliance is a change of behavior in response to an explicitly stated request.  Obedience is compliance with a command.  The movie “The Wave” showed in detail how this phenomenon works by introducing students to how easy it was for Nazi’s in WWII to achieve conformity, compliance and obedience such as arranging the classroom to a order (Clean or arranging the desks perfectly), or instructing the students how this was for the best “strength through community” and then making them totally obedient to him through commanding them.


Jones, R. (1989)  The wave/Embassy production.  Chicago, Ill: Films Incorporated.

 Kendrick, D.T., Neuberg, S.L., & Cialdini, R.B. (2007).  Social psychology: goals in     interaction.  Boston: Pearson.

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