Obedience: Meaning and Characteristics

Submission to authoritative figures and doing what they say is a kind of social influence known as obedience. It is not the same as complying (when someone else tells you to change your conduct) or conforming (when you change your behavior to fit in with others). On the other hand, obedience is changing one's conduct because of a command from someone in a position of authority.

What is Obedience?

"There have been studies with people from different nations, younger individuals, and different methods. The same fundamental outcome is always achieved: many individuals quickly embrace an institution's control, even when doing so may harm another individual. The nurse-physician partnership, as one example, is built on this idea. Multiple studies have demonstrated that nurses follow a doctor's directions even if the nurse has reasonable doubts about the patient's safety ". High schoolers showed even more compliance with authority than elementary school kids. Milgram's method has been used successfully in compliance studies across cultures, with similar results in other Western countries. Even greater compliance percentages have been recorded in several research than Milgram's American sample.

Individual's Propensity to Comply

Several elements have been identified as contributing to an individual's propensity to accept and carry out the directives of others or "obey." Obedience is a moral good and a trait necessary for socialization, and it is often discussed in everyday life as a means of preserving law and order. A disobedient one is not loved in any setting, and he will not be able to cope positively with his life's challenges. A youngster is educated early on to respect the authority of adults, including family members, teachers, and community leaders.

Psychological Weapons

Many individuals in a mob scenario resort to violence and disorderly conduct since they do not believe they have to control their actions. They believe this because so many individuals are participating in the violence. No one will hold me accountable for anything; we shall all experience whatever it is together. Therefore, they follow the leader's orders, even though they are morally repugnant.

Responsible for Mishaps

When a teacher ordered her class to smack a girl five times in the face for not completing her homework, the pupils complied because they believed the instructor would be held accountable in the event of any mishap.

Authority for Negative Effects

Subordinate police officers in the Police Dept. might claim something like, "I am merely following the instructions of my colleagues, and I will not be liable if any adverse occurrence occurs" if they questioned and tortured a suspected criminal to get to the truth. The result is a population that readily follows authority figures' dictates since no one is willing to take any responsibility for anything.

Distinguished Leaders

That kind of powerlessness makes it easier to follow directions. Second, the experimenter or one who issues orders must be someone of actual high status and power in the real world. Modern culture indoctrinates its members with the idea that leaders deserve respect. As a result, a five-year-old will respect his parents but disobey a babysitter or housekeeper.

Confucianism Promotes Blind Loyalty To Authority

The basic premise of Confucianism is that people are virtuous. The tenets of Confucianism hold that, given enough time, individuals would absorb moral standards and behave accordingly. This will not only provide for a more peaceful community; it will also strengthen people from the inside out and raise everyone's standard of living. Confucius's view of government lacked any checks and balances system because he anticipated that individuals would do what was required of them to establish a peaceful society. Confucius failed to protect a genocidal tyrant because he assumed rulers would govern benevolently and treat their people as a father would treat a child.

Obedience's Justification

One possesses raw power when demands are met primarily due to fear of physical force being deployed. Authority is the capacity to make others desire to do what they initially do not want, whereas strength is the capacity to force compliance. This premise is troublesome because it gives more weight to one significant but conflicting aspect of Weber's concept of power than another. This surrender is the key to unlocking the mystery of submission to authority.

The Framework of Moral Demands

The capacity of civilizations to generate moral demand, or moral demand systems, as he termed them. Culture may be considered a system of symbolic regulators regulating individual actions. Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytic concept that symbols are introjected into the self and become a component of a person's sense of identity has greatly assisted the development of Western cultural understandings of the role of symbols in this process.

React to High-Ranking

While it is assumed (at least in theory) that any observed impact in obedience research is due only to the manipulations of the experimental settings, there is always the possibility that the participants' personality traits themselves are at play. Participants' personalities may influence obedience to authority; those who scored higher on the authoritarian submission scale showed this tendency.

The Condition of Being an Agent

When a person perceives himself as someone else's tool, he stops holding himself accountable for his actions, which is the core of obedience.


If we had more people in positions of authority, we would be more likely to obey them. When the learner and the victim were in the same room during the Milgram experiment, the learner was less likely to administer shocks because the victim's pain was more difficult to ignore. In conclusion, there is no simple explanation for obedience and the way it is interpreted; studies like Milgram emphasize and try to discover that it is the stress of the situation that generates such significant concentrations of conformity, but Adorno argued that the individual's personality, as well as the attitude and character of the authority figure, can have an impact. Given the complexity of the factors involved, it is unlikely that any explanation can adequately explain the emergence of obedience. This is particularly true given the difficulty of accurately measuring obedience.