This article throws light upon the six main types of social interaction. The types are: 1. Conformity 2. Compliance 3. Obedience 4. Compromise 5. Co-Operation and Competition 6. Conflict.
Type # 1. Conformity:
The first and the most common form of social interaction is conformity. By and large most people in a society conform to the expectations and demands of society. In recent years, it has been found that there is a generalized tendency among people to conform and that individuals differ in their tendency to conform.
The extent of this conformity is influenced by the individual’s characteristics and background and also by the characteristics of the particular social situation. Experiments have shown that the tendency to conform can be increased by manipulating the situation. For example, if a person with high prestige and popularity gives an order or a directive most of us to conform.
Similarly, it is found that in a class or in an office if a large number of people behave in a particular way, then the others also follow suit For example, in a class if a large number of children start eating lunch under the shade of a tree instead of eating in a prescribed place, the others also start doing the same This takes place without any deliberate attempt at influencing or persuasion.
So conformity or the tendency to conform appears to be influenced by factors such as prestige, authority, number and ambiguity. On the other hand, factors like lack of prestige, non-credibility of the source and ambiguity can result in non-conformity.
Type # 2. Compliance:
Conformity involves a total acceptance, often uncritical, of social expectations, or standards whereas compliance is slightly different. It is a slightly more conscious and deliberate process and is usually at the level of peripheral behaviour. Whereas conformity can be a general tendency, compliance is a purely situational response.
While conformity results in an elimination of the difference between an individual’s response and social expectation, compliance does not mean the same. An individual may comply with another person’s request even though he may not agree. Compliant behaviour is much more a result of situational factors than conformity.
While an individual high in conformity may comply, a compliant individual is not necessarily high in conformity. An example of compliant behaviour may be seen in the following example. A person who is a habitual smoker travelling in a train very reluctantly refrains from smoking if he finds that one or two passengers sitting next to him request him not to do so since they are allergic to cigarettes.
The smoker is complying but is not a conformist. For example the boys who started eating their midday lunch under the tree because they saw others doing so, were not complying to any directive, but they were conforming.
Type # 3. Obedience:
One basic sermon which every human child in every society invariably hears is “you must obey”. However what, when and where, one should obey, varies from society to society. For example, in our society, one is enjoined to obey, God, the parents, elders, the law and sometimes even the religious priest. In totalitarian and dictatorial societies, one must obey the dictator or his ministers.
Thus, obedience of some sort or other has always been a demand on the human individual. What does obedience mean? In simple words it means doing what some other individual, or group asks you to do, without doubting, without questioning and even without thinking. It is almost an automatic and reflex like response to some other external agent.
Here we may attempt a distinction between obedience and compliance. In compliance, one “voluntarily, however reluctantly” yields to repeated requests or demands. To some extent compliance implies an agreement with the spirit and rationale of the outside demand.
Further it is to a certain extent gradual. Conformity on the other hand implies an acceptance of social norms, and the yielding to the pressure exerted by them. Conformity is a group phenomenon. Everybody in a group conforms as a norm, while compliance and obedience are more individualistic.
In a way, obedience may be described as unquestioned, uncritical and submissive compliance. People obey like a flock of sheep. The tendency to obey is certainly a socially and culturally inculcated tendency. Some societies expect implicit obedience. Fundamental religions expect more of obedience than belief from their members and rationalise the same in the name of faith.
Similar trends are seen in extremist, radical groups and terrorist groups. How do people learn to obey and why do they obey? Again obedience can often result in a total elimination of reason, rationality, logic and basic human values. Thus, people obeyed Hitler, in ostracizing Jews. Religious crusaders in Europe and the middle-east ‘obeyed’ their fanatic leaders in killing, torturing and humiliating others, looting and destroying property.
At times we find the police obey orders and kill and injure innocent people. Highly educated officials obey illegal instructions of their political bosses and indulge in corruption and immoral activities and, of course, husbands obey their beastial parents and ill-treat their wives for dowry, and in some cases, the reverse also takes place, where they obey their wives and ill-treat their parents.
Thus obedience seems to be an extreme and widespread ‘human tendency’ cutting across age, sex, nationality, culture, educational and income levels. Only some very young, innocent and uncorrupted children appear to be relatively free from this ‘human disease’. Of course, in many cases fear also forces obedience.
Societies have always expected obedience from their members, particularly the younger members and child-rearing and socialisation practices have always been designed to inculcate obedience. Though this is more true of children, adult members have not been totally exempted from having to obey.
This insistence on obedience is certainly understandable, because to a considerable extent obedience is essential for survival, in view of the fact that children take considerable time to acquire skills and competence for independent survival.
It is also true that if human societies have to survive, a certain degree of obedience to ‘social-cultural’ dictates and prescription is necessary. But obedience of an indiscriminate nature, and as a habitual disposition can result in inadequate personal growth and development, reduced personal effectiveness, and also social harm.
If people obey wrong orders from the wrong authorities, like the law enforcing officers obeying illegal and unethical orders flowing from the top under the pretext of “discipline”, the possible consequences are obvious and we saw this during the so called ’emergency’ in our country.
Obedience as a form of behaviour or behavioural tendency is acquired as a response to the process of socialisation. The patterns of reward and punishment of behaviour, the general values like “obedience to elders” and the need to win social approval and acceptance are all factors which influence the development of obedience.
In addition, other personality factors like dependence, poor self-image, and perhaps feelings of guilt can contribute to certain extent to which people develop “obedience”. While obedience has been a widely prominent response followed in every society, though with variations, perhaps, from the beginning of social living, psychologists have paid little attention to a direct study and analysis of “obedient behaviour”.
Type # 4. Compromise:
While in the case of conformity and compliance it is the individual’s response which gets altered, compromise means that adjustments are made on both the sides.
The result of compromise is a response that is different from an individual’s original response as well as the response expected by the society. A compromise, then, can be something totally different from the expected response. Imagine a person smoking heavily.
The members of his family insist that he should completely give up smoking since it is injurious to his health. The common outcome in such instances is that the person agrees to cut down on smoking. It is clear that this is neither the response expected of him nor is it the response desired by him, yet it is the only compromise he can reach.
Type # 5. Co-Operation and Competition:
When two individuals or an individual and a group enter into an interaction, it can often result in a type of partnership, where both the individual and the other agency work together towards a common goal perceived as being significant by both. It can be seen that co-operation involves a more active role for the individual compared to compromise, compliance and conformity.
The process of co-operation results whenever there is a possibility of enhancement of mutual satisfaction or the emergence of common needs. Unlike conformity or compliance, co-operation involves a greater degree of sharing of perceptions, goals and to some extent even motivation.
In this sense, it is a much more active and deliberate process of social interaction. Social psychologists like Deutsch have investigated the process of cooperative behaviour. In general, it has been found that where individuals in a group are co-operative, the overall performance and output are much more effective than when they are competitive.
Competition is also a deliberate and active type of social interaction like cooperation. In competition, as in co-operation, the goals are the same but they are not shared. Unlike co-operation there is neither the fusion of goals nor the emergence of common goals.
It can be observed that in competitive behaviour both the behaviour and the goals among the members are, to a large extent, similar. But the members perceive that the action of each is against the interest of the other. Competition, therefore, involves behaviour which is based on perceptions which are non-complementary to each other.
Deutsch explains that in a co-operative social situation every member in the situation accepts the group goal as his own personal goal and all reach the goal together regardless of who is most responsible for moving the group towards it. In a competitive social situation the goal is such that only one individual can reach it and one person reaching the goal effectively prevents others from reaching it too.
To test these forms of interaction independently, Deutsch recruited students in a psychology course to meet in groups instead of attending the regular daily class. Every week for a semester, ten groups were each assigned a puzzle problem to complete and a human relations problem to discuss. Five groups were exposed to co-operative goals.
They were told that each group in the study would be ranked every week according to their effectiveness in handling the puzzle problem. The weekly ranks were to be averaged and the members of the group with the highest average would be exempted from one term paper and would receive an automatic ‘A’ for the course. Likewise on the discussion problem the members of the group being rated as having the best discussion were to receive extra credit towards their final grades.
The other five groups were made to operate under competitive goals. Members of these groups were informed that the various incentives would be awarded on the basis of individual effort.
That is, the person in each group (of five members) who attained the highest average would receive these awards. Results showed that subjects accepted either co-operative goal or competitive goals as their own. However, the co-operative groups communicated more ideas, coordinated their efforts, exhibited more friendliness and pride in their group and were more productive than the competitive group.
Type # 6. Conflict:
Conflict is probably the most complex form of social interaction. Here, it is found that goals, behaviour and the motivation of the members are all contradictory. There is no process which is shared. The movements of the different members are in opposite directions. Each individual perceives the other as a threat and each is opposed to the other.
Conflicting behaviour involves two basic elements, defence and offence. In competition, the goal is to do better than the others, while in conflict it is almost to undo the others. This is why it is seen that sometimes competition can produce better results and performance than conflict. For example, in an athletic contest very often we find the contestants improving over earlier records.
This scarcely happens in a conflicting situation. This is why conflict is maladjustive, non-productive and sometimes even positively injurious. Co-operation, on the other hand, seems to produce the best results and the maximum utilisation of human resources, energy, ideas, etc. It is ironical that co-operation can be used for good purposes or otherwise.