With regard to the above question, I will be evaluating the concepts of conformity and obedience. In relation to this the work of Zimbardo, Haslam and Milgram will enable me to explain a variety of ways in which those around us may influence the way we behave.
Conformity is defined as a change in behaviour and/or attitude as a result of group pressure (Hogg & Vaughan, n.d.). In 1971 Phillip G Zimbardo carried out an experiment with the aim of determining the psychological changes of both prisoners and guards. He did this by placing 18 college undergraduates in a simulated prison environment (Prisonexp.org, 2014). The time course for the experiment was 14 days; however, it was ended precipitately after only 6 days as the guards were seen to abuse the prisoners at night. Christina Maslach also questioned the morality of the study after witnessing the participants chained together with bags over their heads. This forced Zimbardo to re-evaluate the situation as a research psychologist as he himself had conformed to the role of the prisons superintendent (Prisonexp.org, 2014).
It was clear throughout the study that all participants had conformed to the role they were given. Prisoners started to believe that they were in a real prison, which ultimately lead to the participants becoming depressed and some of the guards had developed sadistic like qualities due to the amount of power they had over the prisoners (Prisonexp.org, 2014).
Deindividuation is said to of played an important role in terms of conformity. The social process of placing individuals into a group situation and giving them uniforms determines their behaviour. They lose a sense of identity and proceed to act in a way that the group deems acceptable. (Hewstone & Stroebe et al., 2012). This may have caused extreme irrational behaviour within the experiment itself which materialised in terms of aggression and violence towards members of the opposite group i.e. prisoners and guards. This caused groupthink to take effect as individuals who wouldn’t usually stand for immoral behaviour looked the other way as they no longer saw it as their responsibility to prevent antisocial behaviour (Hewstone & Stroebe et al., 2012).
As Zimbardos 1971 prison experiment provided strong examples of oppression, Alex Haslam designed a similar prison experiment in 2002 with the aim to understand social identity and conformity when placed in a hostile environment. In the case of any negative behaviour i.e. tyranny, participants were put through a thorough selection process to ensure that this wasn’t down to individual personality traits.
15 men were selected and placed into 5 different groups of similar personalities; one from each group became guards and the rest prisoners thus resulting in two groups of similar psychological profiles. Physiological data and questionnaires were collected daily as a means of monitoring any change in psychological state. On day one participants were informed of the possibility of...