Human behavior

People do not necessarily behave like sheep as there is an element of an individually within all societies. A more accurate assumption is that personal surroundings at the time of any given event play a major part in determining people’s behavior. This is illustrated by a study conducted by Robert S. Baron Vandello and Brunsman (1996). In this study they showed a drawing of a person and asked the group to identify who that person was on a stimulated eye witness line up. In the incident a drawing was only shown for 0.5 seconds which obviously made it harder for the other person and in another instance it was shown for 5 seconds which made the identification easier.

They then told half the other group that the results were not very important and the other half the results were very important. Then two assistants deliberately identified the wrong person before the rest of the group was asked to identify the individual. The results showed that in the incident that individuals were told that the results were very important, conformity was higher, than when they were told the results were not very important.

The study concluded that people do conform when they want to be accurate especially when they are uncertain about themselves. Conformity levels are less when people are more confident about themselves and are more certain about the events around them. This proves that one factor which influences conformity levels is our desire to be accurate in our social setting. Sheep are predictable animals, as they tend to form groups and remain within their group boundaries. In the same way this analogy can be related to human behavior as people try to stay within society boundaries.

However human behavior is not as predictable and straightforward, and indeed sometimes sheep same as humans will also tend to stray from the flock. The results of conformity studies and obedience studies would lead one to believe that individuals do behave like sheep and tend to follow the majority. However although this is true an extent but it is not entirely true. During these studies individuals have broken away from group influences and direct orders. Although very few individuals have done so it does not prove that human behavior can be very predictable and it is not fair to generalize about the impact of conformity and obedience.

In our everyday lives many fashion trends come and go but not everybody wears the same fashion. In any given society there are strikingly different individuals. For example on one extreme you can have a person who is a member of a golf club and very posh and incomplete contrast in the same society you can have an individual with red hair, piercing and tattoos. As individuals we will do our own thing, but as proven by Asch in a group setting we can easily conform and lose our individuality in a group setting, and in contrast Milgram’s study, obey unjust orders, even when we don’t agree.

In fact often criticisms of obedience studies such as Milgram’s are criticized because they show a different side of society. It is very difficult for humans to accept that we can easily be led. Therefore it is true that people do not like to admit they have been influenced in their decisions. Whereas from Sheriff and Asch research you can see conformity does exist, and the pressures towards conforming are very strong, some people resist them most of the time. In all conformity studies there have been individuals who have not yielded to group pressures.

This is because people like to thrive on their own unique individuality and the desire to control over one’s life. I believe conformity is not so obvious because you are not ordered to do it, it is just done naturally, when we are influenced by our peers socially, and we do it to fit in and be accepted, we don’t realize what we are doing. In the same way not all people have been obedient when they have been ordered to do things. Whereas obedience exists in all societies and always has as we are obedient to the laws of the country, our parents at our work place and if society wasn’t there would be social chaos.

If you were not obedient to these norms you would not be socially accepted. Studies have shown that obedience drops when support comes someone who with you is with you. The further away the person is who has given you the order the less obedience there is as there is no one who is pushing you to carry on, and the closer the victim is the more closer you feel socially attracted and there is more sympathy. In my opinion this is shocking that people will carry out cruel actions on any order when they are aware that they are inflicting harm on others.

But I believe this is all to do with the situation you are in, Milgams study was in a very artificial setting, it had no connection to a true life experience, so the volunteers may not have believed that they were giving electric shocks just because somebody was answering a question wrong, I think that is a bit to extreme, as shocks are a extreme punishment just for an incorrect answer and they may have just gone along with what the experimenter wanted them to do, so it is difficult to conclude from this that people will inflict harm on others because they have been ordered to do so, it is not reflected on a real life situation.

Whereas on the other hand when we go to war and we are given orders to inflict harm on others, we obey immediately and this is seen as the correct thing to do. So the situation you are in is a major factor of your actions in both conformity and obedience.

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