Obedience, Conformity and Compliance

Obedience, Conformity and Compliance- all are human behaviors. Let’s look at the following incidents- 1. The student followed his teacher’s orders. 2. The parents bought a crib for their new born baby. 3. The factory implemented all the safety measures (for its workers) set by the Government. In the first example above, we see the student doing as he was told by his teacher. That means he obeyed the teacher, which is obedience. In the later example why do you think the parents bought a crib for their baby? Because everyone we know buys or bought crib for his/her new born baby to sleep in.

This is a social norm and sticking to this is what we call- Conformity. And in the last example, some rules and regulations set by the authority (in this case, the Govt. ) led the factory to take some actions in order to abide by those rules. This is an example of compliance. Obedience means following orders without questioning since they come from a legitimate authority. Any person can have many legitimate authorities in his/her life starting from parents, to teachers at school and even the spiritual leaders.

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The society has given most of these authoritative figures the power to give orders to others. Every person in his/her life has followed orders from authoritative figures at some point of time without asking why they are doing what they are doing. For instance, we never question why we take tests in school. We just take them as the teachers told us to do so. We abide by many other rules because they usually come from someone who is in a position higher than we are at. There is a very significant psychological experiment which deals with the issue of obedience.

The experiment was conducted by Stanley Milgram. The experiment involved two people where one would play the role of a student trying to remember different words that he had heard, and the other person that was the subject o this experiment; played the part of a teacher and gave the student the test. He was told to shock the “student” every time he missed a word. Milgram’s idea was that most people wouldn’t shock another human being and especially not all the way up to deadly levels of electricity since the “teacher” was told to increase the voltage as he got more wrong answers.

To his utter surprise, Milgram found out that most people would shock their fellow man in this experiment and would be obedient to all the demands made by the instructor as he was the one in a position of authority. Conformity means adhering to prevailing social standards, attitudes, practices and peer pressures. It focuses on compelling the minority to conform their actions to that of the majority (the group norms). In a nutshell, conformity is going along with the crowd.

It is most common within a group; where members change their attitudes and beliefs with a view to match those of the others within the group. Muzafer Sherif conducted a research to know how many people would change their opinions to bring them in line with the opinion of the group they belong to. In his experiment, the subjects were locked in a dark room and told to stare at a small dot of light which was placed 15 feet away. Then they were asked to guess the number of time the light moved.

The trick was there was no movement in the light; the movements were just visual illusion. On the first day, each person assumed different number of movement, but from the second to the fourth day, the same estimate was agreed on and other participants conformed to it. According to Sherif, this was a simulation for how social norms develop in a society, and provide a common frame of reference for people. The notion of compliance is similar to conformity, but a bit different. Compliance is acting to fulfill someone’s direct request.

For compliance to occur within groups, one must adapt his/her actions in accord with another’s wishes or rules. A person that complies with another’s wish, rule or request must have a disposition that compels him/her to yield to others. Requests for complying and acts of compliance happen in everyone’s life. Though the person who asks another person to do something, does not ask the other person to agree or disagree with the task in question. For instance; a request for compliance is asking someone to perform a task.

The person that is requesting the performance of the task is not necessarily trying to change or modify the other’s beliefs, but simply wanting the task to be performed. This is the concept that differentiates between conformity and compliance. The main idea of conformity is that the person being influenced by the group changes his/her actions, attitudes and/or beliefs while the central aspect of compliance is the completion of some targeted task.


CHAPTER 7: CONFORMITY, COMPLIANCE AND OBEDIENCE. Retrieved from www. ordens2e. com/sg7-2e. pdf Search Data Management. Compliance. Retrieved from http://searchdatamanagement. techtarget. com/definition/compliance Hogg, M. A. ; Vaughan, G. M. (2005). Social psychology. Harlow: Pearson/Prentice Hall. Baron, R. S. ; Vandello, J. A. & Brunsman, B. (1996). “The forgotten variable in conformity research: Impact of task importance on social influence”. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 71 (5): 915–927. Guimond, S (2010). Psychologie Sociale : Perspective Multiculturelle. Warve:: Mardaga. pp. 19–28.

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Obedience, Conformity and Compliance. (2017, Jan 28). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/obedience-conformity-and-compliance/