Have you ever seen a big group of people do something clearly pointless and/or insane, and thought to yourself, "Why would so many people commit to the same mistake"? The answer is often one of two suspects: conformity and obedience.
Conformity is a common thing in everyday life- we conform to others' expectations so they like us, and expect others to conform as well. Sometimes, though, people chose to be amicable and conforming against their own better judgement out of fear of being shunned- usually to disastrous effect.
This idea is TERRIBLE. How is nobody else seeing this?
Great idea, boss!
To demonstrate the potentially destructive power of pressure to conform, Solomon Asch conducted an experiment. One participant in a room full of actors pretending to be participants would take a series of simple tests and announce their answers. When the actors gave clearly wrong answers, the participants would follow them, even if it should have been clear they were incorrect.
Obedience simply means doing as authority or regulations command you to. For example, we prefer our children be obedient so that we can teach them how to behave and get along. Conforming often involves being obedient to a leader or set of rules, and following them as much as possible.
This, too, was tested by Stanley Milgram, who put subjects in a room where they were told to increase a knob that corresponded to realistic sounds of a person being electrocuted and screaming in another room. Despite being clearly aware of what was (seemingly) happening, most continued when encouraged by a supervisor, who acted as the authority.