What Are the Differences Between Conformity and Obedience?

Obedience and conformity differ in many ways, including: obedience requires an order whereas conformity is a request; obedience depends upon a order from a higher person instead of conforming with someone of equal status; obedience is a social power structure versus a need to be socially accepted, according to About.com. Obedience and conformity are similar in that someone acts upon another's actions.

Obedience happens when someone performs an action under the orders of an authority figure. Parental relationships, workplace hierarchies, military units and school settings are all examples of how authority figures use obedience to accomplish tasks. Obedience is more structured and involves rules and subordinates. Obedience was studied in the 1950s as psychologists delved deeper into the affects of the Holocaust on survivors.

Psychologists define conformity as changing a person's beliefs and perceptions because of a group's norms. Conformity occurs as individuals simply go along with what their peer group says or does regardless of someone's previous beliefs. According to Frostburge State University (FSU), no one tells someone how to act in a conformist group. This trait stems from a need to be accepted by peers or a need to avoid looking foolish to others. FSU goes on to explain that conformity reflects a fear of being punished or fear of seeming unintelligent.