In this essay, on a basis of results of previous research and literature on social influence, similarities and differences of compliance, obedience and conformity are discussed in order to understand better the process of interpersonal influence.
Compliance, obedience and conformity are the major categories of social influence, the process of changes in an individual’s thoughts, attitudes and behaviour, which take place as a result of interactions with other individuals in person or within a social group (Rashotte, 2006). Social psychologists explain this phenomenon by the fact that all people, with few exceptions, want to be “normal”; or in other words, living in a society and belonging to some social group, an individual tends to act in accordance with certain social norms or rules of conduct, accepted by these society and group. According to Scheff, “people are attentive to the behaviour modelled by others and internalize norms readily, especially when those around them provide clear signals about what types of conduct are considered appropriate” (Gerber, Green, & Larimer, 2008, p. 34). This proposition has been well verified by psychological studies both in labs and fields since the first Sherif’s “autokinetic effect” study in 1935. By now the most famous and valuable studies in this area are also the Asch’s series of experiments on conformity in 1951, 1955, and 1956; the Milgram’s shocker study on obedience in 1963, 1974; the Moscovici’s study on minority influence in 1969; the Zimbardo’s Stanford prison simulation study in 1973 (Abelson, Frey, & Gregg, 2004; Vaughan & Hogg, 2008). Social norms are a useful concept helping to explain behaviour of people experiencing social influence and changes. This essay represents an analysis of the concepts of compliance, obedience and conformity. The author defines the concepts and shows their similarities and differences for the purpose of understanding the processes involved in personal