Discuss the causes of Conformity and Obedience

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Discuss the causes of Conformity and Obedience

Conformity is a change in a person’s behavior or opinion as a result of real or imagined pressure from a person or a group of people. Our perceptions, attitudes and actions are strongly affected by other people. Our thoughts and behavior are influenced by other people and should we be isolated we would be extremely different. Conformity means ‘being influenced by group pressure’, and to conform means to act like other members of a group. Conformity occurs when individuals change their attitudes or behavior to comply with social norms. Social norms are what we consider to be the excepted standards of behavior. When a person acts conformingly it does mean they like doing it e.g. all firemen go on strike about pay, but some of them might have been happy with it, however they conform with the group due to the social influence. Obedience is the most direct form of social influence. It occurs when one person directly orders another to do something. Research has shown that even when the authority person issuing orders does not possess the power to punish or reward, many people still obey the orders. Many interesting studies of both conformity and obedience have been carried out to investigate these theories.

Arguably one of the most famous experiments in psychology was one concerning obedience. In 1963 Milram’s behavioral study of obedience took place. It consisted of volunteers being asked to initiate electric shocks to strangers. Milgrim took only male participants between 20 and 50 years old. They were labeled as the teachers; in another room were the learners, who were part of the experiment although the volunteers didn’t know this. Milgrim dressed in a white lab coat and gave the instructed the teachers which were to administer the shocks when the learners who were strapped into a chair gave the wrong answer. On the machine there were 30 different switches ranging from 15v to 450v. Also on the machine were labels ranging from light shock all the way up to danger: severe shock and X X X. A list of answers was given to the teacher and every time they heard a wrong answer they were to flick a switch. For every wrong answer the voltage of the shock would increase to the next level. Throughout the experiment the learners would purposely give wrong answers. There were no electric shocks actually involved but the learners gave out screams and reactions to make it seem real. The teachers were told to continue right the way to the end no matter what they heard. At the start of the experiment the learners told the experiment that they had a slight heart problem, Milgrim made out that it wouldn’t be a problem. The learners didn’t actually have heart problems.

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Over 60% of participants continued to shock the subjects even when they screamed out to stop. Also 65% went to levels that would have been lethal to the learners. This experiment just shows to what extreme people will go to when told to. They understood that they were in an experiment but they were led to believe that the shocks were real and they were still prepared to administer lethal electric shocks to strangers with a heart problem just because they were told to. Obedience clearly has a strong social influence.

Other experiments have been conducted in order to show ...

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