SOC130: Obedience, Whaddup?


Like all living things, humans are creatures of habit, routine, and– most importantly– learned and patterned behavior. So this week, the Social Breakdown team has the interesting task of teasing out difference between the socialized and patterned behaviors of conformity and obedience. We use Stanley Milgram’s shock experiment to understand how obedience plays into social roles, status, and hierarchies. Also, how do culture and institutions affect this social phenomena? Join us for the conversation!


obedience, social psychology, socialization


  • Obedience: Complying with an order, request, or law, OR submission to another’s authority.
  • How is obedience different from conformity?
    • 1) Obedience involves an order; conformity involves a request.
    • 2) Obedience involves following the order of someone with a higher status; conformity usually involves going along with people of equal status.
    • 3) Obedience relies on social power; conformity relies on the need to be socially accepted.
  • If you want to read more about Erving Goffman’s discussion on how obedience and conformity are used in institutions, like the military, you can read his book, Asylums (1961)
    • 44 min long documentary on the Obedience Experiment with Stanley Milgram narrating
  • A collection of Milgram’s (2010) studies and essays, Individual in a Social World
  • Quick, digestible run through on Milgram’s Obedience Experiment:

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