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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Vicki Brindle.


Psychology assignment two.

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.  This term originates from an incident in New York, 1964.Kitty Genovese was murdered in front of nearly twenty of her neighbours, not one of them offering any help to prevent this tragedy. This is a popular study among psychologists, and numerous books have been written, mainly concluding that when we are alone we have a clearer picture of the situation, and are more confident

That we will not embarrass ourselves by making a social blunder.

There are many reasons why people obey or conform to others idea. Some of these reasons are low self esteem, being persuaded as you are uncertain, a reward of some kind, such as a parent rewarding a child for Obeying the set rules in their home, or just not wanting to be different from the majority.

There are three types of conformity, which may help us to understand why people conform. The first is compliance, when a person conforms although they do not agree. An example of this is footballers belonging to a club. Many clubs issue terms and conditions for the footballers to agree to, usually including a sexual intercourse and drinking ban before all matches. They may not agree with these rules but their greater passion is to play on the team so they must conform.

Secondly is identification. This is when their group of role models influences a person, which could be parents, teachers and important members of their community, although they may not always be present. A good illustration of this would be someone who is influenced greatly by the church although they may not agree with all of the ideas presented to them. The final type of conformity is internalisation. This is quite simply when people conform because they agree. This may be voting for a particular government movement because you agree with their views and policies.

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The three factors influencing conformity and obedience I now intend to explore are authority, acceptance and roles.

I have found in research that there are many questions and studies on why people obey authority. It is believed that society defines authoritative figures and respect for these figures and their authority helps us to socially interact in an orderly way. Unfortunately the down side is that we, as a society, believe we must obey this authority then we may end up obeying even if the request is to do something that we don’t agree with or goes against our moral and ...

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