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Identify and critically evaluate a number of factors influencing conformity and / or obedience, drawing on relevant psychological studies and real life examples.

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Introduction

Identify and critically evaluate a number of factors influencing conformity and / or obedience, drawing on relevant psychological studies and real life examples. The object of this paper is to critically evaluate factors influencing conformity and obedience. I intend to do this by researching conformity and obedience, using books and the Internet. I also hope to briefly write about relevant case studies, by psychologists such as Milgram and Baumrind, and include real life examples to present a well-informed essay. Conformity and obedience are both forms of social influence which is described as "the process by which an individuals attitudes, beliefs or behaviours are modified by the presence or actions of others" Cardwell,Clarke, Meldrum, 1996. This can be described in easier terms, for example, it is how others influence us, in the way we talk and act, and what we believe is right and wrong. There are many ways this can be achieved, including influence by mere presence, persuasion and charm to encourage us to behave according to social norms. However, there is also force and silent treatment to "discourage unwanted behaviour". Rathus, 1990. An example of social influence is the bystander effect. Psychologists have researched and found that at the scene of an accident, the more people there are, the less likely it is that someone will help as "crowds tend to diffuse responsibility" Rathus, 1990. ...read more.

Middle

Also present was another newspaper recruit. Both volunteers were told that one of them would be a 'teacher' and the other a 'learner' during the experiment. In entering a room, the 'learner' would be restrained in a chair and the 'teacher' would sit behind a screen. From behind this screen the 'teacher' was told to administer electric shocks to the 'learner' when they failed to "perform a simple task of memory" Dawninternational, Internet, 2000. A researcher in a white coat encouraged them whenever they hesitated and shockingly the results showed that two thirds of the volunteers "were ready to administer potentially lethal doses of electricity" Dawninternational, internet, 2000. Due to ethics this experiment would be deeply frowned upon today. As with all experiments ethics must always be a priority. However, many people questioned milgrams ethics. Some of the factors that could have possibly concerned critics were the subjects consent, deception and distress. As Milgram advertised in the newspaper, he only had implied consent and not informed consent, as the subjects could not make a well-informed and conscious decision. Milgram also lied about the nature of the experiment therefore he unethically deceived his volunteers. Finally, the volunteers showed signs of distress, it is claimed that many subjects suffered nervous breakdowns during the time of the experiments and after although Milgram denied that volunteers suffered later. ...read more.

Conclusion

We can also relate this back to the nazi's as they long to be accepted into the group that classed themselves as the master race. Acceptance goes hand in hand with conforming in a group situation, which I will briefly discuss, but to define them I will use a personal experience. At sixteen, I became a smoker. When I did this, I conformed without knowing to the ideas of my peers who believed smoking a way of appearing popular and older. I was not obedient, as my peers did not command me to smoke but looking back, I believe I conformed to be accepted in a group of my peers. In 1952 Soloman Asch decided to conduct an experiment to "examine the extent to which pressure from other people could affect one's perceptions" Age-of-the-sage.org, Internet, 1999. To do this he invited eight people to sit in a room. All of the people except the person in the seventh seat were assisting Asch with this experiment, at the time this was obviously unknown to the seventh person. There was a man at the front of the room with a series of cards. On another separate card were numbered comparison lines and your task was to compare the series of cards one at a time to the comparison lines. "This was repeated several times with different cards" Age-of-the-sage, Internet, 1999. ...read more.

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