Conformity and Obedience Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 15:24:05
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Category: Conformity

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Comprehending the essence of obedience and disobedience has been an interest for many researchers, psychologists and scientists. Multiple observations have been administered to assist in understanding such issues and the impact employed by outside factors on individuals within the decision making channels. Neglecting obedience can be as hazardous as neglecting revolution in any society; neither is accomplished with self-observation as a component of the process. Personal interest and concern must be incorporated in determining the appropriate moment for thoughtful disobedience in an effort to preserve society. As a result, several psychologists such as Stanley Milgram have examined the effects of obedience and conformity; thus challenging the accepted prototype of individual freedom, and is confronted with judgments of ethical value. This paper will examine Milgrams research and his interpretation of those results; while examining current research to determine its degree of support as it relates to conformity and obedience.

Milgrams research

Conformity is often defined as the influence of an individuals beliefs, behavior and attitude by others or outside forces. Obedience however, is an outline of social dominion where an individual conform to orders, which are generally produced by figures of authority, and assumed the individual would have responded differently if the order was omitted. The influence may have occurred consciously, unconsciously or by direct social pressure. Individuals often conform to achieve an impression of security in specific groups or to feel accepted. (Russell, 2011). Stanley Milgram is acclaimed for his achievement with obedience to authority. The Perils of Obedience, examined whether common individuals would obey an authoritative figure, while informing them to inflict harm on other individuals.

Milgram recruited forty male participants through advertising, thus partaking in an analysis for approximately four dollars to determine how punishment affects learning. Milgram implemented an aggressive shock generator with shock levels beginning at thirty volts and increasing in fifteen volt increments to the maximum of four hundred fifty volts. In the study, the teacher is informed to communicate words and ask the learner to interpret the information back. If the learner answers incorrectly, the teacher supposedly shocks the learner with fifteen volts, with a gradual increase to four hundred fifty according to incorrect responses. Interestingly, as the teacher administered shocks, the learner was never actually harmed. (Russell, 2011).

Results and Interpretation

Milgrams experiment impaired the theory that only the most perverse individuals would submit to such cruelty. His findings indicated that approximately two-thirds of the participants are categorized as obedient subjects, thus representing common individuals. Of the forty participants sixty-five percent of the volunteers delivered maximum shocks. In fact, twenty-six delivered the maximum shocks while fourteen stopped prior to acquiring the maximum levels. (Russell, 2011). Milgrams conclusions revealed that when an individual is obeying orders he views himself as the instrument and no longer considers himself responsible for his actions. In essence, when performing a task as instructed by an authoritative personality, the feelings of responsibility and individual emotions are separated. Accountability alters the minds of the subordinate from themselves to the authoritative individual. (Russell, 2011).

Current Research

Many have asked if everyone in society opposes individual beliefs to merely satisfy a figure of authority? Milgrams research discloses that most of society adheres to authoritative figures regardless of their individual or personal principles. Milgram tends to inform us that obedience is an unparalleled force in todays society, by confirming that obedience is an intense deep-rooted behavioral tendency, indeed a powerful impulse dominating foundation in sympathy, moral behavior and ethics. (Krueger & Massey, 2009). After more than forty years since Milgrams research on obedience and authority, a fascinating, substantial and impressive analysis in social psychology was published by Michael Dambrun and Elise Vatine. (2010). This contemporary research utilized a paradigm comparable to Milgrams exemplary obedience experiment, utilizing and immersive video environment technology (IVET).

Recent studies have determined that IVET is beneficial in examining human behaviors; thus producing vast advantages. These benefits include improved mundane realism, additional experimental command, and extended opportunity for precise replication. (Dambrun & Elise, 2010). Thirty-one women participated having limited dimensions of visibility and ethnicity, thus producing similar levels to Milgrams research. Duplicating prior conclusions examined in actual environments, participants proved more obedient when the individual was hidden, whereas the extremely obedient participants contradicted their individual accountability by predetermining responsibility on the experimenter and victim as well. Further conclusive results indicated that right-wing authoritarianism (RWA) and state-anger evolved as two primary forecasts of the degree of obedience. (Dambrun & Vatin, 2010).

Members disclosed less anxiety and discomfort when the victim was of a different racial origin as the participant, exemplifying a fundamental development of racial-dehumanization. Thirty-two percent of participants obeyed completely and administered the maximum shock of four hundred fifty volts. Two participants refused entirely to execute the lowest shock and ceased the experiment. In addition, eleven participants cancelled prior to conducting shock level ten, which is equivalent to thirty-five percent. However, forty-two percent or thirteen participants continued after the shock level of twenty; in which the victim no longer provided answers to the instructors questions and deemed to be in extreme pain. (Dambrun & Vatine, 2010).


Contemporary and prior research support Milgrams findings; confirming that individuals most tend to conform to authority and obedience. For example, George Orwells work, Shooting and Elephant, is a primary representation of Milgrams analysis. He remembers an incident of himself as a British policeman selected to intervene against an aggressive elephant causing destruction in a secluded Burmese Village. Orwell discloses that village natives are supporting his efforts to conquer the elephant; whereas other instances he was viewed as distasteful and disfavored. Orwell conceives its unnecessary to destroy the elephant, yet proceeds with his action. Undoubtedly, Milgrams research regarding authority and obedience can be viewed as response to his behavior.

Dambrun, M., & Vatin, E. (2010). Reopening the study of extreme social behaviors: Obedience to authority within an immersive video environment. European Journal Of Social Psychology,40(5), 760-773. Retrieved from Krueger, J. I., & Massey, A. L. (2009). A RATIONAL RECONSTRUCTION OF MISBEHAVIOR. Social Cognition, 27(5), 786-812. Retrieved from Russell, N. (2011). Milgrams obedience to authority experiments: Origins and early evolution. British Journal Of Social Psychology, 50(1), 140-162. doi:10.1348/014466610X492205

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