The Power of Authority and Obedience

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Last week in Psychology 1001, we learned about the Milgram study and the power of authority, and it is something I will never forget. In the Milgram study, found on page 508 to 512 in our textbook, a teacher would be told by an authority figure, a man in a white coat, to deliver a shock to the learner every time they got an answer wrong. The shocks increased over time, up to a lethal 450 volts. Unknown to the teacher, the learner was an actor and no shocks were delivered at all. What the research was looking for, is to see when the participant would chose to discontinue the experiment or if they would continue all the way to the lethal 450 volt shock. When I was reading this study, I was thinking that very few people would continue all the way up to the top and most of the participants would quit the experiment fairly early. Actually, most participants continued to at least 150 volts and an astonishing 62 percent continued all the way to 450 volts. To me, that is crazy. I could not believe average people would continue and be able to create so much pain in someone else. I always thought making people obey someone required that "authority" to be someone that is an evil genius, like Adolf Hitler.
But it seems that one does not have to be so special as an authority figure to change people's behavior. I will remember this experiment forever because I now know that a person that is viewed as a figure of authority has the power to make the average person to change their behavior to do great and terrible things.

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This page contains a single entry by reisx065 published on December 4, 2011 9:36 AM.

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