Milgram (1963) states that obedience is a fundamental element of social life that shapes people’s behavior and arises because of the existence of some authority. Obedience creates a strong link between people and power systems, which may lead to either positive or destructive consequences. For example, if children remain obedient to their parents, cases such as theft, robbery or murder will be minimal in the society. On the other hand, obedience to an evil authority may result in a person causing harm to others, which makes him or her act against their values (Milgram, 1963).
On the other hand, Haney, Banks and Zimbardo (1973) use their research study to define compliance as a behavior that arises in people because of the existence of some law that guides them. Case in point, in the prison simulation by Haney et al. (1973), prisoners are to comply with the jail rules, and this consequently makes them take passive roles. Additionally, the prison also requires the guards to conform to given standards and expectations so as to properly manage the inmates. As a result, the prison officials play active roles by offering commands to the convicts. Prisoners comply with the rules in the hope of receiving better treatment from the guards. Nevertheless, as both the inmates and guards follow the rules, a hostile environment may arise.
Asch (1955) article deals with the definition of conformity. According to Asch (1955), conformity refers to a process through which people aim to be part of society, group or a majority. Asch (1955) notes that different factors shape the conformity of a person, and the main one is group pressure. For instance, the opinions of others significantly influence an individual’s practices, beliefs, and judgments. Therefore, a majority of people will most likely choose to conform to a particular culture if their superiors, the authorities or peers’ opinions support this culture. However, Asch (1955) claims that conformity hurts people’s consensus as it limits their independence in making decisions.
Yes, a group process may arise among people because they not only agree, but also share similar opinions about different things. Asch (1955) notes that group pressure has a significant impact on people’s opinions as it makes people change their viewpoints even when there are no sufficient arguments. As a result, a spread of opinion occurs, which in turn establishes crowds. Further, a group process is most likely to happen because according to Asch (1955), in most instances, a person may not make a mistake, but with group pressure, such an individual would most probably make a wrong judgment (more than 36 percent). Even though a person is aware of the error in a majority, they will yield to the pressure of the group. Also, in rare cases where people act independently, they often come to believe that the majority was right (Asch, 1955).
However, Asch (1955) posits that the group process can only arise because of unanimity within a group rather than its size. That is, size may affect the group process, but to some level. For instance, Asch (1955) notes that increasing the size of a group to three people significantly influences group pressure, but any increase afterward will have a minimal effect. Contrariwise, unanimity has a greater impact on group pressure as the existence of a supporting figure in the group reduces its influence. On one hand, if the supporting partner agrees with the majority’s standpoint, a feeling of warmth and closeness will arise and help the group make mutual decisions. Nonetheless on the other hand, if the supporting figure opposes the group’s position, a group process may fail to occur as he or she would free the members and consequently make them more independent (Asch, 1955).
Milgram (1963) article is essential in explaining how obedience makes people perform given acts that they could previously not imagine doing. Therefore, modern events such as torturing terror a suspect to gain information occur because the act of obedience leads people into a unique state, where these individuals only focus on fulfilling their duties to a higher authority. For instance, soldiers ignore the implications of their acts and only focus on government orders. These troops torture suspects not because they do not recognize that they are doing unethical practices but hold the belief that what they are performing is right in the eyes of their leaders. Alternatively, from a leadership perspective, Milgram (1963) findings can be useful in explaining how leaders acquire followers. That is, people become supporters of a public figure because such a person acts as a representative of a collective identity in the society.
On the other hand, the Haney et al. (1973) article implements a prison simulation to show how ordinary people can transform into evil individuals and how such individuals experience pathological reactions. Therefore, I can apply this information from Haney et al. (1973), to explain the situational causes that create the abnormal behavior in guards, as well as the convicts. The results from Haney et al. (1973) act as a significant tool for me to explain how situational power shapes people’s attitudes, behavior, and values. For example, when a person continuously receives bad treatment from the authority, he or she will most likely develop some resistance or rebel against that source of power. These findings are crucial in showing how people adapt without power on one side (prisoners) and with substantial authority on the other (guards). They indicate why in the modern society, inmates do not change much and may end up committing a crime.
- Asch, S. E. (1955). Opinions and social pressure. Scientific American, 31-35.
- Haney, C., Banks, C., & Zimbardo, P. (1973). Interpersonal dynamics in a simulated prison. International Journal of Criminology and Penology, 1, 69-97.
- Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral study of obedience. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67(4), 371-378.