5 Jan 2023


Obedience, Compliance, Conformity, and Group Think

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Obedience is a human trait of individuals adapting their behavior to be aligned with the demands of an authoritative figure as the main social influence. Usually obedience is done in fear of negative repercussions expected when te individual goes contrary to the figure of authority. The individual may not agree with the particular behavior but is obliged to accept and adapt to it. A historical example of obedience is Adolf Eichmann an executed Nazi officer who played a role in the holocaust because of obeying the wishes of his superiors. 

Compliance is a social influence concept which refers to accepting to accomplish a specific request or perform a particular task. A person in compliance does not have to change their beliefs or necessary adapt to a group’s behavior. Compliance is mainly achieved through persuasion and the person complying does not have to agree with the request. An example of compliance is making of an audit report using standard practices of auditors. 

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Conformity is a psychological concept that refers to an individual trait of adapting to the general behaviors of a group they are part of, whether they previously agreed with that behavior or not. Conformity in a group is more prevalent when a leader in the group influences the traits that the rest of the group members follow. Three main factors influence the level of conformity; a higher percentage of the majority, privacy in declaration of the response and presence of dissent. An example of conformity is taking drugs because one’s friends take them. 

Group think involves the members of a group basing their opinion to what is believed to be the general consensus of the group. Groups often prevent opposing opinions and tend to make decisions that individuals would find extreme on their own. Group think is often caused when strong cohesion in a group exists, and makes harmony a bigger priority than developing sound opinions. An example of group think is participating in street protests as a member of a community. 

Compliance techniques are a common tactical feature used mostly in surveys, sales and marketing. There have been concerns on the ethical implications of using such techniques to make someone agree to a particular request. Arguably, several common compliance techniques involve different levels of deceit and could be regarded as unethical. 

Ingratiation and That’s Not All techniques are generally acceptable morally since they rely very little on deceit. Ingratiation involves amplifying confidence and likeability to one’s audience in order to persuade them while That’s Not All generally offers additions to a presented offer to convince the person to accept it. Generally, these techniques can be seen as simple ways of persuasion with little ethical disregard. 

Foot-In-The-Door and Door-In-The-Face techniques are regarded as the most commonly practiced techniques in sales. Both require that the person agree to an initial offer before a final intended offer is made. Although they do not use outright deceitfulness, their application involves not revealing the intention on the onset of the conversation and leading the respondent. This makes the two techniques borderline unethical since honest conversations must have clear intentions throughout. 

Low-Balling as a compliance technique is often regarded as pure deceit and morally unethical (Bednall, 2010 ). The technique involves acquiring a person’s commitment to an offer then changing the terms before conclusion of the deal. The use of this technique in sales may lead to poor retention of customers as a consequence. 

Ethics is a critical issue that has to made a priority in any research study. The Stanford Prison Experiment broke many ethical considerations during its implementation. During the recruitment of participants, the consent of the participants was not properly obtained because much of the information was not revealed to them. Secondly, the “prisoners” were not protected from psychological harm. 

The wellbeing of the research participants should always be a priority over knowledge gained from the study ( Williamson & Burns, 2014 ). Though a few psychological theories were developed from the outcome of the study, the participants endured a lot of suffering. It was the duty of the principal investigator to guarantee the emotional protection of the participants instead of instigating more psychological harm. 


Bednall, David & Adam, Stewart & Plocinski, Katrine. (2010). Ethics in practice Using compliance techniques to boost telephone response rates. International Journal of Market Research . 52. 155. 10.2501/S1470785309201156. 

Williamson, A., & Burns, N. (2014). The safety of researchers and participants in primary care qualitative research.  British Journal of General Practice 64 (621), 198-200. doi: 10.3399/bjgp14x679480

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StudyBounty. (2023, September 15). Obedience, Compliance, Conformity, and Group Think.


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