Influences of Conformity and Obedience Paper

Influences of Conformity and Obedience Paper
Table of contents:

Introduction

The concepts of conformity and obedience
The classical view on the effect of the group influence on the self
The contemporary view on the effect of the group influence on the self
Individual and societal influences that lead to deviance from dominant group norms

Conclusion
References

Introduction

Traditionally, the problem of conformity and obedience attracted the attention of psychologists and sociologists because conformity and obedience influenced consistently the behavior of individuals. At the same time, the impact of conformity and obedience cannot be viewed at the individual level solely. Instead, it is important to view conformity and obedience in the context of social relations between the group and the self. In fact, views of researchers on the impact of the group on the self may differ but it is obvious that relationships of conformity and obedience emerge only in the social environment, whereas an individual alone cannot start the relationships of conformity and obedience. To put it in simple words, the relationships of conformity and obedience emerge only in case of the presence of a social group that influences an individual and it is the group an individual conforms his or her actions and behavior with or obeys to. At the same time, views of specialists on the concepts of conformity and obedience varied consistently and evolved in the course of time. Nevertheless, relationships of conformity and obedience can be vulnerable to the impact of the group on the self as well as individual psychological peculiarities may influence the relationships of conformity and obedience but, in any case, conformity and obedience affect consistently the behavior of an individual.

The concepts of conformity and obedience

As the matter of fact, the concepts of conformity and obedience are, to a significant extent, similar although they are not identical. In actuality, views of specialists on the concepts of conformity and obedience differ. The difference in views on the concepts of conformity and obedience are particularly significant, when classical researchers of the concepts of conformity and obedience are compared to contemporary ones. In this regard, the difference between classical works and contemporary studies is, to a significant extent, determined by the difference in views on social psychology. To put it more precisely, in the past, classical views on social psychology were vulnerable to the impact of dominant trends in psychology and social science. As a result, researchers believed that the individual is vulnerable to the impact of the society and social groups to the extent that the individual is a mere creature conditioned by the group. Hence, the classical view on the concepts of conformity and obedience implies the dominant impact of the group on the individual’s behavior.

At this point, it is important to define clearly both concepts, the concept of conformity and obedience. Basically, regardless of existing differences and variations in the definition of these concepts, it is possible to define the concept of conformity as the process, in which an individual’s behavior, attitudes and beliefs are conditioned by what the individual believes to be what other people perceive. To put in simple words, conformity includes attitudes, beliefs and views of an individual of how the individual is perceived by other people. Normally, individuals want to be perceived positively by the group. In such a way, the role of the social group is significant. Hence, classical researchers stood on the ground that it is the impact of the group that determines behavior, attitudes and beliefs of individuals, which aim at the positive perception of an individual by the social group (Socolow, 2004). In other words, an individual, in classical view, is supposed to gain the positive perception of his or her behavior and public image by the group at all costs. However, the contemporary view on the conformity differs because contemporary researchers stand on the ground that an individual’s psychology can influence his or her strife for conformity.

The same trend is typical for the concept of obedience, which may be defined as the quality of being obedient, i.e. carrying out commands of other people. In this regard, classical researchers place emphasis on the impact of the group on the obedience of individuals (Socolow, 2004), whereas contemporary researchers stress the individual peculiarities and internal inclination of an individual to obedience (Hosking & Morley, 2004). Anyway, it is important to distinguish conformity from obedience. Unlike obedience, conformity implies the behavior of an individual intended to match that of majority, whereas obedience implies the quality of being obedient to either a group an individual.

The classical view on the effect of the group influence on the self

Taking into consideration existing differences in views of classical researchers and contemporary ones on the concepts of conformity and obedience, it is possible to distinguish consistent differences in their views on the effect of the group influence on the self. In this regard, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that, in the past, researchers paid a particular attention to the impact of social groups (Socolow, 2004). In fact, it is possible to speak about certain overestimation of the impact of the group influence on the self. What is meant here is the fact that classical researchers stood on the ground that an individual’s behavior, beliefs and attitudes are condition by the social group he or she lives in. In such a way, they left little room for an individual choice in the models of behavior and in social relationships of an individual. Therefore, according to classical views the group conditioned the behavior of an individual and the self was conditioned entirely by the group. In such a context, the self can be viewed as a mere product of the social group. In fact, such a view on the self and the belief in the overwhelming impact of the group on the self results from the dominant views in the social psychology of the past, which tended to overestimate the significance of the social group and underestimated the significance of an individual in the group.
The contemporary view on the effect of the group influence on the self

In contrast to the classical view on the effect of the group influence on the self, the contemporary researchers are more individualistic and self-oriented. To put it more precisely, contemporary researchers place emphasis on the fact that an individual cannot be viewed as a mere product of the social group. Therefore, the social group cannot condition an individual, the self entirely. At the same time, they do not deny the impact of the group, social beliefs and social activities on an individual and his or her self. Nevertheless, they stand on the ground that an individual is still capable to independent choices and decisions under the impact of his or her internal inclinations, psychological peculiarities, upraising and other individual and internal factors. Therefore, the contemporary view on the effects of the group impact on the self slips toward increasing the role of an individual.

In this respect, it is worth mentioning the fact that contemporary studies imply that individuals are vulnerable to the impact of social groups. Nevertheless, contemporary researchers do not admit the overwhelming impact of the group on the individuals. In fact, contemporary studies show that an individual tends to obey to existing social norms and rules under the impact of the social group. On the other hand, an individual can rebel against the existing social norms. Even though such an act turns an individual into a sort of outcast, but still the individual has a choice and, in contrast to classical view on the effect of the group impact on the self, through turning an individual into an outcast, the group does not prevent him or her from any sort of social activity. Instead, casting an individual out of the social groups leads to his or her marginalization but the individual may be supported by others, whereas if the individual has strong leadership skills he or she can lead a part of the group and change conventional social norms and standards.
Individual and societal influences that lead to deviance from dominant group norms

At this point, it is important to dwell upon the individual and societal influences that lead to deviance from the dominant group norms. As the matter of fact, an individual can rebel against the dominant social norms and the social group can impose different sanctions on the individual, varying from legal actions, such as incarceration, if the deviance from dominant group norms led to the legal crime, or to casting an individual out and his or her marginalization, if he or she has different political or religious views and beliefs, for instance. On the other hand, the exclusion of an individual from the group can have far-going consequences affecting the entire group. As it has been already mentioned above, a strong leader can lead a considerable part of the social group that will lead to the split of the group as well as to social conflicts within the group.

At this point, it is important to stress that it is socially active individuals that change the social group but not the obedience mass of people. What is meant here is the fact that it is through the deviance from dominant group norms that lead to consistent changes within the group because the individual that violates existing social norms offers other group members an alternative view or way of the group development. If some group members support this alternative view or way of development, than the group may face the problem of the internal conflict or split into two opposing social groups.

Conclusion

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that conformity and obedience are important concepts which reveal the impact of the group on an individual. Individuals are apparently vulnerable to the impact of social groups but the degree of such impact on the individual and his or her behavior. In this respect, it is important to understand that an individual is on entirely controlled and conditioned by the group. Instead, individuals always preserve some degree of autonomy. As a result, they can violate existing dominant social group norms. In such a situation, individuals slip toward marginalization but, on the other hand, they can offer the social group an alternative way of development and alternative views, which may be supported by other group members. Consequently, individuals are closely intertwined with their social groups and they cannot exist outside of the group but they can also influence their groups.

References:

Hosking, D.M. & I.E. Morley. (2004). “Social Constructionism in Community and Applied Social Psychology.” Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 14: 318-331.
Socolow, M.J. (2004). “Psyche and Society: Radio advertising and social psychology in America, 1923-1936.” Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, 24(4), 517-534.

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