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Let a child's first lesson be obedience, and the second may be what thou wilt.
  — Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
Obedience is the first rule in human or animal doggie training. Photo: Ostra Studio (c. 1930s).


Externally hosted image on Handprints: Pal Comix (Drawings Gallery #174)
"You... will... follow her directions", by Palcomix.

Obedience is the act of obeying a rule or order (submissive compliance). It can also refer to dutiful or submissive behavior in general or the willingness to obey.

Failure to be obedient is called disobedience. The term usually implies that the person who gave the order or made the rule had the legitimate authority to do so, and the person subject to it has an obligation to obey.

Some animals, e.g. dogs, can easily be trained to be obedient. Obedience training seems to be particularly effective on social animals, a category which includes human beings. Other animals do not respond well to such training.

Humans have been shown to be surprisingly obedient in the presence of perceived legitimate authority figures, as demonstrated by the Milgram experiment in the 1960s. Milgram carried out his experiments to discover how the Nazis had managed to get ordinary people to take part in the mass murder of the Holocaust. The experiment showed that compliance to authority was the norm, not the exception. A similar effect was found in the Stanford prison experiment.

Being properly obedient to a superior is called subordination. The opposite, i.e. the disobedience of a subordinate, is called insubordination.

The willingness to be obedient can be displayed by prostration, a reverential or submissive body position.

Forms of human obedience[edit]

Forms of human obedience include:

  • obedience to laws
  • obedience to social norms
  • obedience to a monarch, government, organization, religion, or church
  • obedience to a God
  • obedience to self-imposed constraints, such as a vow of chastity or fasting
  • in patriarchial societies, obedience of a wife or child to their husband or father
  • in antiquity and after the Renaissance revival of slavery, obedience of a slave to his master
  • in feudal societies, obedience of a vassal to his lord
  • in BDSM, obedience to a dominant

Cultural attitudes to obedience[edit]

Obedience is regarded as a moral virtue in many traditional cultures. Historically, children have been expected to be obedient to their elders, wives to be obedient to their husbands, slaves to their owners, serfs to be obedient to their lords, lords to their king, and everyone to be submissive to God. Even long after the end of slavery in the United States, the Black Codes required Black people to obey and submit to Whites, on pain of lynching.

In some Christian weddings, obedience was formerly included along with honor and love as part of a conventional bride's (but not the bridegroom's) wedding vow. This came under attack with women's suffrage and the feminist movement. Today its inclusion in the wedding vow practiced by some Christian sects has fallen out of favor.

As the middle classes have gained political power, the power of authority has been progressively eroded, with the introduction of democracy as a major turning point in attitudes to obedience and authority.

Since the democides and genocides of the First World War and Second World War periods, obedience has become regarded as a far less desirable quality in Western cultures. The civil rights and protest movements of the post-War period marked a remarkable reduction in respect for authority in Western cultures, and greater respect for individual ethical judgment as a basis for moral decisions.

Obedience training[edit]

Obedience training of children[edit]

We feed you, we clothe you, we keep you warm and safe. The least you can do is obey us in return!
  Salvation, Part 11: Amy Jennings by Dickins

Learning obedience to adult rules is a major part of the socialization process in childhood, and many techniques are used by adults to modify the behavior of children.

Often, children are praised or rewarded for obedience, and/or reproved or punished for disobedience.

Obedience training of dogs[edit]

Obedience training is common in the training of dogs.

Obedience training in BDSM[edit]

Obedience training is also found in BDSM.

See also[edit]

Smallwikipedialogo.png This page uses content from Wikipedia. The original article was at Obedience (human behavior). The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with Spanking Art, the text of Wikipedia is available under a copyleft license, the Creative Commons Attribution Sharealike license.