Examples of obedience to authority in everyday life

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examples of obedience to authority in everyday life

Obedience to Authority by Stanley Milgram

Obedience is as basic an element in the structure of social life as one can point to. Some system of authority is a requirement of all communal living, and it is only the man dwelling in isolation who is not forced to respond, through defiance or submission, to the commands of others. Obedience, as a determinant of behavior is of particular relevance to our time. It has been reliably established that from 1933 to 1945 millions of innocent people were systematically slaughtered on command. Gas chambers were built, death camps were guarded, daily quotas of corpses were produced with the same efficiency as the manufacture of appliances. These inhumane policies may have originated in the mind of a single person, but they could only have been carried out on a massive scale if a very large number of people obeyed orders.

Obedience is the psychological mechanism that links individual action to political purpose. It is the dispositional cement that binds men to systems of authority. Facts of recent history and observation in daily life suggest that for many people obedience may be a deeply ingrained behavior tendency, indeed, a prepotent impulse overriding training in ethics, sympathy, and moral conduct. C. P. Snow (1961) points to its importance when he writes:

When you think of the long and gloomy history of man, you will find more hideous crimes have been committed in the name of obedience than have ever been committed in the name of rebellion. If you doubt that, read William Sbirers Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. The German Officer Corps were brought up in the most rigorous code of obedience . . . in the name of obedience they were party to, andassisted in, the most wicked large scale actions in the history of the world. (p. 24)

The Nazi extermination of European Jews is the most extremeinstance of abhorrent immoral acts carried out by thousands ofpeople in the name of obedience. Yet in lesser degree this type ofthing is constantly recurring: ordinary citizens are ordered todestroy other people, and they do so because they consider ittheir duty to obey orders. Thus, obedience to authority, longpraised as a virtue, takes on a new aspect when it serves amalevolent cause; far from appearing as a virtue, it is transformedinto a heinous sin. Or is it?

The moral question of whether one should obey when commands conflict with conscience was argued by Plato, dramatized in Antigone, and treated to philosophic analysis in every historical epoch Conservative philosophers argue that the very fabric of society is threatened by disobedience, and even when the act prescribed by an authority is an evil one, it is better to carry out the act than to wrench at the structure of authority. Hobbes stated further that an act so executed is in no sense the responsibility of the person who carries it out but only of the authority that orders it. But humanists argue for the primacy of individual conscience in such matters, insisting that the moral judgments of the individual must override authority when the two are in conflict.

The legal and philosophic aspects of obedience are of enormous import, but an empirically grounded scientist eventually comes to the point where he wishes to move from abstract discourse to the careful observation of concrete instances. In order to take a close look at the act of obeying, I set up a simple experimentat Yale University. Eventually, the experiment was to involve more than a thousand participants and would be repeated at several universities, but at the beginning, the conception was simple. A person comes to a psychological laboratory and is told to carry out a series of acts that come increasingly into conflict with conscience. The main question is how far the participant will comply with the experimenters instructions before refusing to carry out the actions required of him.

But the reader needs to know a little more detail about the experiment. Two people come to a psychology laboratory to take part in a study of memory and learning. One of them is designated as a teacher and the other a learner. The experimenter explains that the study is concerned with the effects of punishment on learning. The learner is conducted into a room, seated in a chair, his arms strapped to prevent excessive movement, and an electrode attached to his wrist. He is told that he is to learn a list of word pairs; whenever he makes an error, be will receive electric shocks of increasing intensity.

The real focus of the experiment is the teacher. After watching the learner being strapped into place, he is taken into the main experimental room and seated before an impressive shock generator. Its main feature is a horizontal line of thirty switches, ranging from 15 volts to 450 volts, in 15-volt increments. There are also verbal designations which range from Slight SHOCK to Danger--Severe SHOCK. The teacher is told that he is to administer the learning test to the man in the other room. When the learner responds correctly, the teacher moves on to the next item; when the other man gives an incorrectanswer, the teacher is to give him an electric shock. He is to start at the lowest shock level ( 15 volts) and to increase the level each time the man makes an error, going through 30 volts, 45 volts, and so on.

The teacher is a genuinely naive subject who has come to the laboratory to participate in an experiment. The learner, or victim, is an actor who actually receives no shock at all. The point of the experiment is to see how far a person will proceed in a concrete and measurable situation in which he is ordered to inflict increasing pain on a protesting victim.
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Ethics Defined: Obedience to Authority

PsychTeacher

Obedience is a form of social influence that involves performing an action under the orders of an authority figure. It differs from compliance which involves changing your behavior at the request of another person and conformity which involves altering your behavior in order to go along with the rest of the group. Instead, obedience involves altering your behavior because a figure of authority has told you to. During the s, a psychologist Stanley Milgram became intrigued with the conformity experiments performed by Solomon Asch. Asch's work had demonstrated that people could easily be swayed to conform to group pressure, but Milgram wanted to see just how far people would be willing to go.

One of the fundamental aspects of social interaction is that some individuals have more influence than others. Bosses have power over their workers, parents have power over their children, and, more generally, we can say that those in authority have power over their subordinates. In short, power refers to the process of social influence itself—those who have power are those who are most able to influence others. The powerful ability of those in authority to control others was demonstrated in a remarkable set of studies performed by Stanley Milgram Milgram was interested in understanding the factors that lead people to obey the orders given by people in authority. He designed a study in which he could observe the extent to which a person who presented himself as an authority would be able to produce obedience, even to the extent of leading people to cause harm to others.

When nurses are familiar with the drug, and they can discuss the order with a colleague, they are not so obedient! Making A level psychology easier. Obedience in real life settings Does laboratory research into obedience generalise to real life settings? Will nurses obey a dangerous order from a doctor they do not know? Hofling et al, The power of a uniform Bickman, In real life, people obey orders in their everyday settings, for example nurses obey doctors, school students obey teachers, and everybody obeys policemen.

When we think about obedience to authority, we often think of the famous study by Yale and the female the homemaker are examples of traditional authority. We all follow orders in our everyday lives and it's an interesting.
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2 COMMENTS

  1. Martiniano T. says:

    By Saul McLeod , published

  2. Sean R. says:

    The results indicate that most of us would follow orders to do terrible things, just as the Nazis did; surely a poignant result for Milgram, a son of Jewish immigrants, to ponder.

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