Essay Sample on Obedience and Conformity to Authority

Published: 2023-05-02
Essay Sample on Obedience and Conformity to Authority
Type of paper:  Critical thinking
Categories:  Research Pressure Human behavior Ethical dilemma
Pages: 3
Wordcount: 628 words
6 min read

Tyranny psychology is heavily evidenced by many classic studies conducted in the 1960s and 1970s, including Asch`s Conformity Experiment, Zimbardo`s Stanford Prison Experiment, and the by Milgram on obedience to authority. This research seeks to illustrate how humans unthinkingly and passively conform to the roles and instructions that authority gives, irrespective of how evil they might be.

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In Asch`s conformity experiment, during World War 2, he studied the effect of indoctrination and propaganda that led him to evaluate the impact of social pressure on conformity. The naive subject became the only one that correctly identified the correct match. In a third of the trials, all confederates called out the same wrong match. The naive subject was always under pressure to conform to the rest of the group (Burger, 2018. They were under social pressure to state the incorrect answer like the rest. A third was estimated towards the majority in more than half of the trials. Five percent of them conformed to the incorrect estimates of the other confederates.

The general public, especially males, volunteered to Milgram`s scientific research on memory. The participants were allocated the task of being a "Teacher" with the role of administering increasing magnitude of shocks ( ranging from 15-450V in an increment of 15V) to the "Learner," another man, at the incident of failure to remember a word correctly learned in a previous lesson (Milgram, S., 2015). The study proved that all participants were willing to shock others with 300V, and 65% of them extended to 450V. This provided compelling evidence that men would go to the extent of killing a stranger when they were ordered by the authority to do so.

Zimbardo`s experiment further explored the destructive nature of men in groups in an extended time. Students were assigned the positions of prisoners or guards randomly in a mock prison constructed in the Psychology Department of Stanford. This research aimed to observe the interaction between and within the two groups without the presence of authority (Konnikova, M., 2016). The guards meted out abuse to the prisoners such that the experiment was terminated after just six days. He concluded that brutality illustrated by the guards was a natural effect of being in a guard`s uniform and the exercising power that comes with the role.

Within psychology, Asch, Zimbardo, and Milgram have helped to consolidate a growing obedience and conformity bias that focuses on compliance such that it is so strong to obscure evidence of disobedience and resistance. The power of their research seems to be derived from the fact that it gives support to the claim that evil is banal. The fact that power comes with an opportunity to oppress the powerless, people can resist roles thrust upon them with a choice to create conditions under which they lead the tyranny. People ought to realize the social pressure surrounding them and evaluate ways to handle people that act violently or aggressively in an institutional setting.

Such experiments should be repeated as some like Zimbardo`s are biased as they are composed only men making the findings not applicable to females. Milgram`s study had some ethical issues like the deception of the participants and extremely stressful situations that they were not able to withdraw from. However, the studies are indeed powerful as they created real-world situations, and the conclusions are driven by the findings of each study. Ordinary people tend to adhere to orders given by the authority, although they recognize they are not morally right. The response to authority applies to a variety of situations, ranging from school, workplace, and family.


Burger, J. M. (2018). Conformity and Obedience. General Psychology FA18, 241.

Konnikova, M. (2016). The real lesson of the Stanford prison experiment. Perspectives on Contemporary Issues, 318.

Milgram, S. (2015). Behavioral study of obedience.

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