Implications & Remember it, Test It!

Implications & Remember it, Test It!


The philosopher Edmund Burke once stated that ‘all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing’. We can begin to see what he means when we look at the findings of the research that has been done in the area of conformity, obedience and bystander intervention.

People’s critical faculties seem to abandon them when they are part of a crowd or when they are being told what to do by an authority figure. We find it hard, so the research would suggest, to stand out from the crowd to do what others don’t. It is also difficult to know how to alter this kind of behaviour.


Remember It!

Conformity is caused by:

    • The need to be right
    • The need to be liked

Milgram (1963)

            • Individuals were willing to apply powerful electric shocks
            • All participants applied 300 volts, 65 per cent applied 450 volts.
            • The presence of an authority figure (respected scientist) played a large role
            • As did being removed from the suffering of the victims
            • Milgram concluded people will follow extreme orders
            • The study has been criticised for lacking ecological validity


Why are people so obedient?

    • Incremental commitment
    • People in authority convince you of the validity of their power
    • Socialisation: we are trained to obey from an early age
    • Absence of responsibility: easy not to take responsibility for our own actions
    • Removed from consequences: easier not to think we are responsible for harming others


    • When someone loses their sense of individuality
    • Can be caused by anonymity and being part of a crowd
    • Can lead to antisocial and criminal behaviour
    • Zimbardo (1969) found that there was a difference in behaviour in towns/cities
    • CCTV is used to combat deindividuation


Social loafing

    • People reduce levels of effort when part of a group doing the same task
    • Can alter between cultures
    • Might have an impact on how places of work are managed

Bystander intervention

    • When witnesses give help when it is needed
    • Affected by how much the victim is identified with
    • Affected by the appearance of the victim
    • Affected by how many bystanders there are


Test It!

  1. Give two possible reasons why people might conform.
  2. Describe one experiment in which conformity was investigated. Be sure to mention the aims, method, results and conclusion.
  3. Give three reasons why you think people in general are obedient to authority?
  4. What is meant by the term ‘deindividuation’? Give an example of a situation in which this may affect the way someone behaves.
  5. What is meant by the term ‘social loafing’? Give an example of a situation in which social loafing might occur.
  6. What explanation has been put forward to explain why people are less likely to respond to an emergency when there are people around them?
  7. What conclusion did Piliavin come to when he conducted an experiment into the relationship between a victim’s appearance and bystander intervention?