Psychology of Conformity and Obedience Thesis

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¶ … Psychology of Conformity and Obedience

Conformity and Obedience:

All human societies maintain social and behavioral norms, expectations, and mores, although the specific value or connotations of various behaviors varies tremendously among different societies. The ordinary process of human socialization invariably generates large-scale social conformity to predominant social values and behaviors despite considerable flexibility (in many societies) for individuality and self-expression. To a great degree, socialization occurs completely without our awareness, particularly during infancy and childhood when we absorb fundamental social concepts.

Obedience is a more explicit or conscious phenomenon that implies a purposeful choice to submit to the authority of another or to conform one's behavior to the directions or wishes of a superior individual (or a larger entity). To a large degree, obedience is also a natural phenomenon that shapes our social behavior, because it plays an important role in our family-of-origin (and other formational) social relationships and experiences.

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While that is generally true of all human (and many nonhuman) societies, particular human cultures may also regard obedience to authority as a specific moral or social value with an inherent significance. Throughout human history, dictatorships and other fanatical governmental authorities have exploited both the socialization process and the power of obedience to authority among the masses. More recently, several landmark psychological experiments and national events have illustrated the negative potential of social conformity and obedience.

Classical Study of Group Influence on the Individual:

TOPIC: Thesis on Psychology of Conformity and Obedience Conformity and Assignment

In the early 1950s, psychologist Solomon Asch (1907-1996) demonstrated the power of group influence and the susceptibility of the individual to blind conformity. Asch's experiments involved subjects within groups of confederates all of whom agreed unanimously on an obviously wrong answer, such as the comparative lengths of two lines depicted in a drawing. Those experiments revealed that many subjects will change their answer and support the group's consensus instead of maintaining their original position without being influenced by the group (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2008).

It is thought that various factors determine whether or not (or to what degree) different people are susceptible to group influence. Generally, the size of the group, its degree of unanimity, its relative social status, and variation in aspects of individual psychology in the realm of self-esteem and confidence all contribute to the power of the group to influence the individual in specific cases (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2008).

In 1970, psychologist Phillip Zimbardo conducted the (now) famous Stanford Prison Experiment in which psychology study volunteers were randomly assigned to be prisoners or prison guards in a simulated prison facility created for the experiment. Without any direction from Zimbardo, the guard group followed the lead of the most dominant individuals and the individual guards became so abusive to their fellow classmates playing the roles of prisoners that Zimbardo had to stop the experiment barely halfway through its scheduled two-week run. Subsequently, individuals from both groups of guards and prisoners required psychological counselling about their experiences. Some of the guards in particular suffered from the behavior that they expressed during the experiment (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2008).

Contemporary Example of Group Influence on the Individual:

The revelation that members of the American Armed Forces stationed at the Abu Ghraib detention facility in Iraq had engaged in systematic abuse and torture of prisoners of war is one of the most recent and significant reminders of the detrimental effect of the phenomena of groupthink, conformity, and blind obedience to authority. In many ways, it… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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