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Conformity and Obedience Assignment

1. Conformity and Obedience

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Conformity is a tendency of the human being to replicate the actions of other people. While replicating, people usually are not aware of the actions that are replicated. There is a replication of the body postures, gestures, body language, and any other such behavior of the people we interact with. It has been found out that replicating actions creases bond between the people and help in the smooth flow of interaction (Burger, 2018).

Obedience refers to following someone's instruction. The term obedience can be described as a positive act to follow someone’s instruction and sometimes it shows its negative side when people break the ethics of following orders (Zhang and Wright, 2018).

1.1 Assessment of Difference between Conformity and Obedience

Conformity and obedience are two types of social behaviors and interaction which is influenced by the action of different groups (Katz-Gerro et al., 2017). Conformity is an action that is a replication of the action of a certain group of people in the adaption of the lifestyle and beliefs while obedience is the response of any order given by certain people or a group of people.

Conformity is not a voluntary act but it has a delicate method of adapting the behavior of others while obedience is a response of direct order from any leader or authority. There is a difference in the reason for conformity and obedience. There is a rejection where there is non-conformity while obedience results in a negative outcome and can have a serious impact on the individual. Also, in conformity, a group of people has the power while in obedience, the power is centralized to the leader or powerful and influential person (Gonzalez-Franco et al., 2018).

2. Psychological approaches to conformity

2.1 Evaluation of psychological studies carried out by Asch

In the year 1951, Solomon Asch conducted an experiment testing conformity. The main aim of the experiment was to check the extent of the pressure of the society which forms the majority could affect the person to behave in the same way as another member of the society. In his experiment, he took 50 male students from Swarthmore College in America who were told that they were taking part in a vision test where there were only one real participant and seven participants who were just acting as participants and had answers in advance with them (Uchida et al., 2020).

The experiment conducted by Asch used only males as a sample which was a biased approach. He did not consider other population such as females in the experiment and hence this experiment is unable to get a conclusion on the conformity if a female is used as the sample for this experiment resulting in the lack of validity of the population as a whole and more research is needed to confirm if the male and female have a different conformation (Sunstein, 2019). Further, the experiment conducted by Asch has limited scope for ecological validity as this experiment is an artificial task that does not confirm any conformity of the people in their everyday life and hence it does not relate to situations of real life. For example, why people start smoking or drinking with their social groups or friends.

Finally, there are ethical issues with the experiment carried out by Asch as it does not reveal the true purpose of the experiment and has deceived the participants saying it as a vision test rather than an experiment on conformity. Also, this experiment does not protect the participants from psychological stress which they will be having after agreeing with the majority answer but an incorrect one (Ye, 2019). However, the same has been overcome by Asch by interviewing the participant post-experiment.

2.2 Evaluation of psychological studies carried out by Zimbardo

Philip Zimbardo, an American psychologist conducted the Stanford prison experiment to study the impact of a situational variable on the behavior of human beings (Akirmak, 2019). In his experiment, he set up a prison in the basement of Stanford University by taking 24 students to play the roles of prisoners and guards of the prison. In this experiment, the prisoners were locked up for 24 hours while the guards were allowed eight hours work shifts and they were allowed to leave for home when the shifts are complete. In few days of the experiment, there was a behavioral change for both the prisoners and the guards. In the years since the experiment was conducted, there have been several evaluations and critics of the study. One of the critical evaluations of this experiment is it was not fitted in the real-life situation as it was conducted based on situational variables and thus has lower ecological validity (Lee et al., 2021).However, the participants of the experiment reacted in a real way according to the situation. For example, the conversation between the prisoners was recorded which was only about the prison conditions, and rarely shared any private conversation. Also, this study focuses only on the male population-based in the US and not those of the other countries and therefore lacks the population validity.

Besides the above-mentioned, there are some positive aspects of the experiment. This experiment has changed the operational beliefs of the US prison (Mannino et al., 2017). For example, the juveniles were no longer kept with the adult prisoners before the crime has been proved and they have been booked to avoid any violence between them. Another positive side of this experiment was the consideration by the American Psychological Association for the guidelines related to ethics of conformity. Any experiment that will be conducted in the future will have to undergo a rigorous review by the ethics committee UK and board for institutional review (US) before the implementation of the experiment.

3. Psychological approaches to Obedience

Obedience is n act of following the instructions given by the higher authority or a person having high social status. The most distinguishing characteristic of the psychological approaches to obedience is the primary role it agrees with situational elements (McLeod, 2017).

3.1 Evaluation of Milgram study

The experiment of Milgram is conducted in a two-room laboratory which itself signifies that the study lacks a real-life environment and is not suitable for real-life situations. Also, instructions to give electric shock is harsher than giving a normal instruction to be followed and this type of situation that is depicted by Milgram is somewhat suitable for Military purpose (Gibson, 2019). Furthermore, there were only males that were contacted to experiment and not the females, and therefore, the experiment conducted by Milgram is considered to be biased. The experiment when applied to different cultures replicates the same conclusion as the Milgram original study and in few situations, it has produced more obedience rates.

3.2 Ethical Issue raised by Milgram

The experiment performed by Milgram has few ethical issues associated with the study. The same has been discussed in the below points.

  • The study conducted by Milgram does not have any protection from the psychological harm that the participant would be suffering as they were exposed to an extreme situation that can have the potential to cause harm psychologically (Griggs et al., 2020). However, Milgram has defended this accusation by saying that the effect of the shock is short-term and once the participant was debriefed about the situation, the stress level of the participants was decreased. Also, to be sure about the participant that came has no harm, Milgram followed up with them in regular intervals.
  • The experiment conducted by Milgram is deceptive as the participant believed that they were harming a real person and are not aware about the person is acting on behalf of Milgram (Gale, 2019). However, Milgram defended by saying that illusion has been used when required to set the stage for the expose of certain difficult to get at truths.
  • Another ethical issue raised with the experiment Milgram about obedience is the right to withdraw the experiment at any point of time during the study. This experiment gave the participants four verbal jabs which restricted withdrawal from the experiment. The four verbal prods are –
  • Please continue
  • The experiment requires that you continue
  • You must continue
  • You have no other choice, you must go on(Mocanu and Pradai?, 2020).

3.3 Assessment of the knowledge gained about human behavior justifies Milgram's experiment.

The experiment conducted by Milgram has been justified through the agency theory where different behavior of humans has been considered in a different social situation. At first, the self-governing state where people give direction to theiractions and take responsibility is solely theirs for the actions directed. Secondly, it is the agentic state where the behavior or action of the person is being directed by others and for any consequences, the outcome of their action is passed to the individual who has directed the action (Yükselbaba, 2017). As per the suggestion by Milgram, a person entering the agentic state must follow two conditions. Firstly, the person giving orders is being perceived as qualified to direct other people's behavior. Secondly, it is believed by the person who has been instructed to do anything that it is the responsibility of the authority to be accountable for what the outcome will be (Akirmak, 2019). Hence, the above-mentioned human behavior justifies the Milgram experiment.


Akirmak, U., 2019. The validity and reliability of the Zimbardo time perspective inventory in a Turkish sample. Current Psychology, pp.1-14.

Burger, J.M., 2018. Conformity and Obedience. General Psychology FA18, p.241.

Gale, A., 2019. Ethical issues in psychological research. In Companion Encyclopedia of Psychology (pp. 1156-1176). Routledge.

Gibson, S., 2019. Stanley Milgram’s Obedience Experiments. In The Routledge International Handbook of Perpetrator Studies (pp. 46-60). Routledge.

Gonzalez-Franco, M., Slater, M., Birney, M.E., Swapp, D., Haslam, S.A. and Reicher, S.D., 2018. Participant concerns for the Learner in a Virtual Reality replication of the Milgram obedience study. PloS one13(12), p.e0209704.

Griggs, R.A., Blyler, J. and Jackson, S.L., 2020. Using research ethics as a springboard for teaching Milgram’s obedience study as a contentious classic. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology.

Katz-Gerro, T., Greenspan, I., Handy, F. and Lee, H.Y., 2017. The relationship between value types and environmental behavior in four countries: Universalism, benevolence, conformity, and biospheric values revisited. Environmental Values26(2), pp.223-249.

Lee, H.J., Lee, D.H. and Lee, D.H., 2021. South Korean short version of the Swedish Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory. Current Psychology, pp.1-10.

Mannino, G., Montefiori, V., Faraci, E., Pillitteri, R., Iacolino, C., Pellerone, M. and Giunta, S., 2017. Subjective perception of time: research applied on dynamic psychology. World Futures73(4-5), pp.285-302.

McLeod, S., 2017. The Milgram shock experiment. Simply Psychology.

Mocanu, L. and Pradai?, D., 2020. Obedience to Authority: Milgram Contributions. New Trends in Psychology2(1).

Sunstein, C.R., 2019. How Conformity Works. In Conformity (pp. 11-34). New York University Press.

Uchida, A., Michael, R.B. and Mori, K., 2020. Scholastic Achievement Levels and Conformity of Junior High School Students in the Asch Experiment. Psychology11(9), pp.1285-1299.

Ye, M., 2019. The EPO Model’s Connections with Social Psychology Concepts. In Opinion Dynamics and the Evolution of Social Power in Social Networks (pp. 55-82). Springer, Cham.

Yükselbaba, Ü., 2017. Milgram experiment about authority and obedience. ?stanbul Üniversitesi Hukuk Fakültesi Mecmuas?75(1), pp.227-270.

Zhang, J. and Wright, J.D., 2018. Conformity and Obedience to Authority. In Violence, Periodization, and Definition of the Cultural Revolution (pp. 100-107). Brill.

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