Conformity vs Obedience: Difference and Comparison

Conformity and obedience both allow for a certain amount of externalization of a person’s innate essence. These are two social behaviours and influences that can be observed in interactions between people and group formation.

Due to this, people may confuse one of these words with the other. However, there are some points of difference between the two.

Key Takeaways

  1. Conformity involves changing one’s behavior or beliefs to align with a group’s norms, while obedience refers to following orders or commands from an authority figure.
  2. Conformity stems from social pressure and the desire to fit in, whereas obedience arises from a sense of duty or fear of punishment.
  3. Conformity can be voluntary or involuntary, while obedience is perceived as a conscious decision to comply with authority.

Conformity vs Obedience

Conformity is the process of changing one’s beliefs, sentiments and attitude to copy the perspectives and viewpoints of a group of individuals. Obedience is the act of executing commands given by a control figure like a team leader, a parental figure or a boss, without resistance or question.

Conformity vs Obedience

Conformity is the conduct or behaviour of a person that reflects that of a group of individuals. It is the process of modifying one’s own beliefs, attitudes, and even sentiments to fit or copy the group’s perspectives and viewpoints.

A combination of subtle influence and indirect control enforces conformity.

Obedience is merely the conduct of executing commands without question or resistance. The commands or instructions are issued by a specific figure in control, who is supposed to be the team’s leader or head.

Societal norms frequently shape these figures of power. Obedience is undertaken to avoid punishment or other undesirable consequences due to disobedience or a lack of understanding of the command.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonConformityObedience
MeaningThe behaviour of adhering to the views and lifestyles of a particular group of individuals.Act or action performed in response to a specific command or authority.
CompulsionA choice behaviour.Necessitates authorities’ direct control and influence.
ReasonNon-conformity frequently leads to dismissal.Not following this can lead to penalties or other negative repercussions.
FocusPower is centralized and focused on a commander or important figure in conformity.It is centralized and focused on a leader or influential person in obedience.
Majority-minority conceptIt is much more noticeable here, where there is a distinct demarcation between who’s approved and who’s not.An important figure can impose what comprises the majority and minority groups in this situation.

What is Conformity?

This is adopting attitudes, views, and behaviours to social standards, ideology, or being like-minded. Norms are unspoken, specific guidelines that influence a group of people’s relationships with one another. 

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People frequently choose to fit into society over pursuing their aspirations since it is easier to follow in the footsteps of others rather than forge a fresh route.

This inclination to conform can occur in small groups or communities.  When a person is alone or in the company of others, conformity might occur.

Conformity is motivated by a desire for comfort within a group, also called a normative influence—a group of those of the same age, culture, faith, or educational standing.

This is known as groupthink: a style of cognition marked by self-deception, forced assent, and obedience to group morals and ideals while ignoring realistic assessments of alternative courses of action.   

It is possible to be socially rejected if you refuse to conform. Often associated with young people, but it can affect all ages.

Since conformity is a group phenomenon, elements like the size of the group, uniformity, integration, position, past dedication, and world perception have a role in determining an individual’s level of conformity.


What is Obedience?

In human behaviour, obedience is a type of “social conditioning” in which a person obeys specific guidelines or directions from a superior.

Obedience is distinct from adherence, which is peer-influenced conduct, and conformity, which is behaviour that is designed to resemble the majority. Obedience can be moral, immoral, or amoral, as per the situation.

Humans are obedient in the face of recognized lawful authoritative figures, as demonstrated by Stanley Milgram’s Milgram experiment in the 1960s, which sought to understand how the Nazis were able to persuade common people to participate in the Holocaust’s mass killings.

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The experiment revealed that submission to leadership was the rule rather than the exception. “Obedience is as essential a component in the framework of social life as one can refer to,” Milgram stated of obedience.

All community living requires some form of control, and it is only the man who lives alone who is not expected to react to the dictates of others through disobedience or compliance.  

Many traditional cultures value obedience; traditionally, they require the kids to obey their seniors, slaves, their masters, serfs, their lords in feudal society, lords their monarchs, and everyone God.

The Black codes obliged black people to comply and bow to whites, even after slavery was abolished in the United States. Compare and contrast the Islamic religious ideal of submission and its significance.


Main Differences Between Conformity and Obedience

  1. Conformity is the behaviour of adhering to the views and lifestyles of a particular group of individuals. Obedience is the act or action performed in response to a specific command or authority.
  2. Both conformity and obedience show signs of pressure and persuasion. However, although conformity has a sophisticated approach, it is nevertheless regarded as a chosen behaviour. Obedience necessitates authorities’ direct control and influence (adults or people with power).
  3. Conformity and obedience have different motivations. Disobedience can lead to penalties or other negative repercussions, whereas non-conformity frequently leads to rejection. Isolation is a possibility in both circumstances.
  4. Power is centralized and focused on a leader or influential figure in conformity, but it is centralized and focused on a leader figure in obedience.
  5. In both cases, the concepts of majority and minority are clear. However, it is more prominent in conformity, where there is a clear separation between who is approved and who is not. An influential person can enforce what comprises the majority and minority groups in the situation of obedience.
Difference Between Conformity and Obedience

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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