The main difference between conformity and obedience is that the influence of authority in conformity is indirect whereas the influence of authority in obedience is direct.
Social behaviour consists of varied character traits in humans. Conformity and obedience are two such social character traits in humans. Moreover, both these traits highlight a certain degree of surrender to another person.
Key Areas Covered
1. What is Conformity
– Definition, Characteristics, Authority
2. What is Obedience
– Definition, Characteristics, Authority
3. What are the Similarities Between Conformity and Obedience
– Outline of Common Features
4. What is the Difference Between Conformity and Obedience
– Comparison of Key Differences
Conformity, Obedience, Social Behaviour, Sociology, Psychology
What is Conformity
Conformity refers to the quality of compliance with standards, rules, laws or behaviour in accordance with socially accepted conventions. Psychology identifies conformity as a type of social influence involving a change in belief or behaviour in order to fit in with a group. Thus, conformity happens as a result of accepting and deciding to follow the standards of someone else or to follow the standards imposed upon.
Conformity is essentially seen in groups and communities where the members should follow the accepted standards or norms imposed upon them. Likewise, they can retain the credibility of the group and work together towards their goal without any unwanted pressure.
In order to belong to this group, the members should conform themselves to the rules and standards of the group so that they can easily reach their goals together as one. Similarly, those who don’t conform get marginalized and disregarded by the majority who conforms.
Hence, in conformity, there is more of an adaptive quality when compared to obedience. However, there is an indirect authority in conformity as well. This happens when the majority starts rejecting and imposing social disruptions to the opposition or to the minority; those who don’t conform.
What is Obedience
Obedience refers to the behavioural trait of being compliant with an order, request, or law, or submission to another’s authority. It can also be defined as the phenomenon where a person is yielding to explicit instructions or orders from an authority figure. Accordingly, obedience is the way of following the orders of someone who has an authority over the other; the person who is under the authority of that person has to follow those orders without any retaliation. In obedience, there is a direct influence of authority.
Consequently, high respect or fear for those who have an authority above you and being subservient to them are core elements of obedience. Thus, this happens in most cases as a result of respect to the authoritative party or even as a result of reverential fear one has towards the authoritative party.
Likewise, obedience can be observed in situations where kids become obedient to their parents, students following the instructions of a teacher, employee following the orders of their boss or when followers of religious leaders become obedient to their leaders. Thus, obedience can also assist a person to guide someone to the correct path and eventually be an example to others.
However, since obedience comes with direct influence of the authority, the subservient party has to suffer punishment if they prefer to be disobedient. A fine example of this is the dictatorial leadership of Nazi rulers and Holocaust victims.
Similarities Between Conformity and Obedience
- Both conformity and obedience require a certain level of surrendering of one party to the other.
Difference Between Conformity and Obedience
Conformity refers to the behaviour in accordance with socially accepted conventions. On the other hand, obedience refers to the behavioural trait of being compliant with an order, request, or law or submission to another’s authority.
Power of Authority
There is a direct power of authority that influences others to be obedient whereas the power of authority in conformity is indirect. This is the basic difference between conformity and obedience.
Obedience is needed primarily to guide others to the standard or accepted path while the prime need in conformity is to retain originality and maintain the norms.
If anyone refuses to conform, they will be ignored and marginalized whereas if someone refuses to be obedient, they will be punished and will suffer bad consequences. This is another important difference between conformity and obedience.
Conformity and obedience are two social behavioural traits. These are prevalent aspects that influence the decision making procedure and social interactions of a person. Both these traits display similarity with regard to the degree of surrender under authoritative powers. However, the main difference between conformity and obedience is that the influence of authority in conformity is indirect whereas it is direct in obedience.
McLeod, Saul. “Saul McLeod.” Simply Psychology, 1 Jan. 1970, Available here.
“Obedience (Human Behavior).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 21 July 2018, Available here.
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