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Explanation of the influences of conformity and obedience

Evaluate the effect of group influence on the self using classical and contemporary literature:

Compare and contrast the concepts of conformity and obedience.

Analyze a classical study concerning the effect of group influence on the self.

Analyze a contemporary example of the effect that group influence has on the self.

Analyze individual and societal influences that lead to deviance from dominant group norms.

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Influences of Conformity and Obedience

Conformity and Obedience:

Individuals conform, are compliant, and are obedient for various reasons which all align with social norms amongst groups. Reasons that affect these behavioral and cognitive areas include the approval of others or to be correct in situations. Conformity is the ability to alter one's position to those of society, whether it is following rules, having a particular attitude or performing a certain role. As an individual conforms over time, they become more compliant in general, and eventually obedient in nature (Kassin, Fein, & Markus, 2008). The conformity would need to occur for the individual both internally (i.e. beliefs, attitudes) and externally (i.e. behaviors) for it to be successful. In addition, the individual must want to conform to the best of their ability and admit their possible faults or differences that deviate from the norm; simply put, conforming is the ability of changing one's viewpoint. However, ultimately the influence of others will affect the duration of conformity for any individual.

On the other hand, compliance is determined by the individual's ability to control and regulate their behaviors and thoughts to what is acceptable and allowed (Morisky, 2002). In order to influence an individual to become more compliant, one would stress the ramifications of their alternative actions and persuade them to follow the rules/norms. On the other hand, to influence an individual to become less compliant, one would emphasize their individuality and free will within any given situation all while still respecting set laws within the community and social norms within relationships. In short, compliance occurs as a result of presenting information to an individual and allowing them to make the decision of whether or not to comply.

Furthermore, obedience pertains to the choice an individual makes regarding their actions within given situations that are authoritative in nature. Power and expectations presented by those in control will often influence more or less obedience from an individual (Nucci, 2003). For instance, in an attempt to influence an individual to become more obedient within society and situations, one could inform them of the consequences which would result in the undesired behaviors/actions which they could possibly choose. Furthermore, one would influence an individual to become less obedient within society by expecting them to go against the norm and influence their perception concerning what is right and wrong (i.e. morals).

Classical Study:

Milgram's classical study is of importance within the field of social psychology for it set out to investigate the effect of group influence on the self through observing individual behavior and obedience amongst group setting. Behavioral changes which are produced by the commands of someone or something in power or control is regarded as obedience. However, certain factors can influence individuals to follow commands that include destructive behavior; this is what Milgram's research in particular concentrated upon (Kassin, Markus, & Fein, 2008). By conducting research trials in which participants were instructed by an experimental authority figure to administer increasingly harmful electronic shocks to other individual participants, Milgram was able to determine the specific factors that can influence the levels of obedience.

During the experiment, the learner participant was attached to a shock device and was asked various questions, in which for every wrong answer an increasing shock response was administered by the individual participant exercising the control in the experiment. The shock levels ranged in level from 15 to 450 volts, and a majority of participants reached a particular range while they were being encouraged by a researcher to inflict the destructive behavior but couldn't bring themselves to go any further. Milgram determined that any participant who stopped the experiment before reaching a certain particular shock level (i.e. the 13th) was considered to be defiant. Individual participants who proceeded to administer all shock levels on command were considered to be obedient subjects in this case. Factors that affected the ability of the participant to inflict the shock levels upon another individual included the proximity to the other participant, and the exhibited signs of discomfort of the person undergoing the shock treatment (Milgram, 1963).

This study proves to be unethical on several levels for it is deceiving to participants, it inflicts personal pain (emotional and physical) upon participants, and attempts to gain control over the emotions, thoughts, and behaviors of others without their consent. This particular experiment ...

Solution Summary

This solution is comprised of a detailed explanation of the influences of conformity and obedience as it pertains to developmental and social psychology. Supplemented with concrete examples and more than 1000+ words of text, this description of this complicated topic provides students with a clear understanding of the societal influences of conformity and obedience within our culture.

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