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Conformity and Obedience - Related Studies and Their Relevance in Modern Society.

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Task 2 This essay will look at social influence and explore the concepts of conformity and obedience looking at related studies and their relevance in modern British society. The term social influence refers to the way social situations can influence our behaviour and beliefs. This essay will focus particularly on the reasons and the extent to which people conform to group pressure or majority influence and obey the orders of authority figures. David Myers (1999 cited in Cardwell et al. 2004, p.155) described conformity as “a change in behaviour or belief as a result of real or imagined group pressure” this is something most people can identify with; the feeling that we are under pressure to act a certain way so that we are accepted or do not stand out of the group. There are two main reasons why people conform; Normative Social Influence – wanting to be liked or accepted by the group and Informational Social influence – not wanting to be wrong or seem out of place. In Asch’s original 1951 experiment he wanted to test whether people would give an incorrect answer because of the influence of the group even though there was a clear correct answer (Lawton et al, 2011, p155). To test this Asch used 50 male college students as naïve participants. ...read more.


Zimbardo?s study was very effective with high ecological validity; it showed the power of the situation over an individual. Although Zimbardo et al produced an informed consent contract which explained what would happen in the experiment, they could not have predicted the results and therefore the participants were not fully protected against psychological harm, raising ethical issues. Even Zimbardo himself began to conform to his role as prison supervisor showing a loss of objectivity, many feel that the experiment should have been stopped before sixth day. The work of Zimbardo et al is still relevant in modern society; the recent prisoner abuse by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib shows how situational factors can influence an individual. None of the soldiers had previously shown any signs that they were capable of this type of behaviour but Zimbardo argues that ?the same psychological processes ? deindividualization, anonymity of place, dehumanisation, role-playing and social modelling, moral disengagement and group conformity ? that acted in the Stanford Prison Experiment were at play in Abu Ghraib? (Dittmann, 2004 [online]) Obedience is when a person ??acts in response to a direct order from an authority figure? (Cardwell et al, 200, p.154). We are taught from a young age that we should obey the orders of authority figures; in school for example we obey the orders from our teacher. ...read more.


as it was conducted in a real-life setting; the nurses were acting as they would normally act and so it produced very reliable results that supported Milgram?s research. It was criticised for its lack of informed consent as none of the nurses were aware that they were part of an experiment. Although Hofling?s research provided some interesting results we should acknowledge that cultural factors would have had a huge affect on Hofling?s findings. This study was conducted in 1966, a time when woman would have been more accustomed to obeying the orders of men due to gender inequality. Also, the training that nurses receive now is of a much higher standard than in the 1960s. These key studies give us an insight into the way social situations affect the individuals? behaviour. The change in culture since these studies were conducted has been quite significant, we are a much more liberal and individualist society, meaning these studies are not as relevant as they once were. However it is interesting to see that this research is still very significant, especially that of Zimbardo et al (1971). Recent events such as Abu Ghraib show individuals can and indeed are influenced by the situation and those in authority. As a society our respect for authority figures is not as great as it was in the 1950s and 1960s but perhaps our desire to be accepted by both our peers and those in authority has not changed as much as we might think. Louise Weatherall Access to HE Psychology ? Task2 ...read more.

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