The literature on obedience emphasises that legitimate authority is a powerful and compelling force. This is particularly evident in Milgram’s experiments (1963, 1974) in which participants systematically shocked a helpless victim at the bidding of an experimenter. Asch (1951, 1955, 1956) also showed conformity in his line judgement task, in which one in three participants yielded to group pressure. Conformity has a very broad meaning and refers to the behaviour of a person who goes along with his peers or people of his own status who have no social right to direct his behaviour (Milgram, 1974). Obedience has a narrower application. Its scope is restricted to the action of a person who complies with authority (Milgram, 1974). Consider a recruit who enters a health profession. They scrupulously carry out orders from superiors (obedience) at the same time as adopting the habits, routines and language of peers (conformity). Obedience and conformity both indicate abdication of initiative to an external source (Milgram, 1974).
Hollins Martin, C. J. (2012). Conformity and obedience among midwives. In C. R. Martin (Ed.), Perinatal Mental Health: a clinical guide (249-261). M & K Updates