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Conformity and obedience

Video transcript

I want to start off by talking about the differences between conformity and obedience because while these two terms are sometimes used interchangeably in psychology they refer to different albeit related things conformity or peer pressure describes how we adjust our behavior or thinking in order to go along with the group obedience on the other hand describes how we follow orders and obey Authority it doesn't involve a possible cognitive component in the way that conformity does think about the saying I'm just following orders and I want to point out that even though we normally talk about conformity and obedience as being negative things they are both useful and helpful and important aspects of social behavior for example if you saw people running top speed out of a building that you were just about to enter you would probably conform to this behavior and run away as well and similarly if a firefighter told you not to enter a building because it was on fire you would probably acknowledge his authority in this situation in obey we also conform in obeying little ways like how we don't question the idea that cereal is a breakfast food or how we obey traffic laws we don't really question the idea that we should stop at red lights and stop signs that said conformity and obedience can certainly have a dark side for example we know that peer pressure can sometimes lead to questionable behaviors and we usually think about this in terms of children and teens I remember when I was a teen my mother used to ask me if your friends jumped off a bridge would you jump too and we certainly know that obedience can have a dark side many studies on this topic were actually inspired by the Holocaust by how seemingly regular normal people could commit acts of atrocity and that's one of the reasons why studying conformity and obedience is so important there are a number of different kinds of conforming and obedience or different ways that we can be motivated by group pressures or by individuals one way is through compliance and this explains situations what we do a behavior to get a reward or to avoid punishment well that someone might get if they disobeyed Authority so it's our tendency to go along with the behavior without necessarily believing in why we are doing and so as you might expect compliance tends to go away pretty quickly once the rewards and the punishments are removed one example of compliance might be paying taxes I don't always agree with all of the things that my tax dollars are being used for but there are some things I do support and I know that I will get punished if I don't pay them or think about TSA screenings I don't think anyone really likes to stand in line or go through the detectors but we know that we won't be allowed on the plane if we don't the next way is through identification and this is when we go along with something because we are motivated by our desire to be like a certain person so this is the behavior that you see when people act a certain way or dress a certain way in order to be like a famous singer or famous actor and typically they will continue to do this as long as they respect that individual but if for whatever reason that individual loses their favor or loses their respect they will stop conforming to that behavior and a good example of this might be a situation that recently happened with a famous sports star basically there was a football player that people admired and so they bought his jersey and they watched all of his games but then a video was released showing him engaging in an act of domestic violence and once this was made public support for this football player dropped significantly and not only did people stop wearing his jerseys some of them even went back to the original stores and returned them the last way that I'm going to talk about is through internalization meaning that we don't only conform publicly with a behavior but we can form with it privately as well so the idea or belief or behavior has been integrated into our own structure of beliefs and values and as you might expect this type of conformity tends to be stronger than the others because we won't stop believing it or doing it when an external element has changed so maybe I start going to the gym because my friends were going maybe we all made a new year's resolution that we were going to get in shape but after some time I might internalize the idea that exercise is good for me and so I will continue to go to the gym even after my friends have stopped we can also conform because of different kinds of social influence or pressure that we feel from those around us if we do something in order to gain the support or respect of our peers we would say that we are complying with social norms or a normative social influence and this is also the type of social influence that we feel when we want to avoid social rejection or if we're worried about group disapproval and because of this you might go along with the group outwardly but internally we might believe something very different so maybe my friends are all obsessed with a certain singer and all they do is talk about him or her or want to listen to his or her music and because I want the group to like me I tell them that I like this music as well even though I absolutely hate it even though I can't stand it but because I'm worried about their rejection I'll continue to say that I like it or even go to the concert the other type of social influence is informational social influence and this is what happens when we feel that we should defer to the judgments of others because we feel that they are more knowledgeable than us about a certain topic because we think that they're right or because we think that they know something that we don't and this is the type of social influence that I felt when I moved to a new place and didn't really know much about the town and so if I wanted to do something like if I wanted to find a good Italian restaurant I would ask the people who I saw around me people who had lived there for a longer period of time and I'm likely to comply with their instructions or go along with their suggestions because they've lived here longer and they clearly knew the area better than I did