Five to six million Jews out of nine were mercilessly slaughtered during the Holocaust in Europe. It was the will of a one person, alongside the soldiers' perfect endorsement of his vision that caused these catastrophic casualties. This submissiveness to the orders and to the social flow is a mere human feature. Thereupon, obedience and conformity are some of several concepts needed be clarified for further understanding for the reasons behind this psychological phenomenon.
Obedience and conformity are two interwoven concepts. The former is the act of behaving in a particular way submitted to the orders of a higher statues individual (e.g. a teacher, a parent, or a colonel). In contrast, the latter is an aspect of obedience, but it is manifested on a social scale in which one executes actions based on social rules. The human being can choose between obeying the orders, or the rules, or neglecting them, but the majority tend to obey, even when they are able to safely avoid them, or they believe it is wrong. The last stated idea can be explained by two major factors: a psychological and a sociological one.
Several experiments were conducted in order to have a better understanding on conformity. For example, in Sherif's autokinetic experiment conducted in 1935, a spot of light is projected in a dark room. During the first rounds, the spot of light moves several centimeters, then the participants ( among which there are several confederate individuals ) are interrogated about the distance the spot has traveled. At first, the confederates gave correct estimations, which gave subjects a relief, but on a late point of the experiment, the spot light did not move, and the confederates give wrong estimations. Surprisingly, most of the subjects conform to the group and they also give close estimations. Based on this experiment, one understands that coping with the group is something at times can not be controlled. The psychological and social influence of the group makes the individual subconsciously having doubts; consequently, they adapt to the group's norms. When conformity confronts an obeying situation, it just amplifies the act of executing the order.
In Miligrams' experiment, however, obedience was brought forth, and several features were assigned to it. In 1951, this experiment consisted of three main characters: the teacher, whom is the subject; the student, whom is a confederate; and a supervisor, whom will explain the experiment and assumes responsibility. The teacher is told to test the student's memory by giving him simple multiple choice questions and is also told to give the student increasing electric shocks if he wrongs in his answer. 450 volts shock is the maximum tension (which is enough to struck a person dead). By the continuous pressure of the supervisor to proceed the experiment and the constant calls of the student to abort the it, 65% of the subjects proceeded to 450 volts. With this experiment bared in mind, obeying orders can be stretched out to the point of harming other persons, (e.g. Germans in WWII) and this is due to the unconscious belief of accepting the information given by the superiors. With enough reassurances, either from superiors or members of the group, the individual will desert his conscious and submits to the will of the others.
To sum up, obedience and conformity are manifested during everyday's life, and although they're subconscious processees, they affect the individual's life significantly. However, human behaviour is unexpected. That is why there are some rare occasions in which obeying the superiors or coping the group are not the decisions that were made inspite the influences and the pressure put on the individual.