Obedience to Authority

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Most people would like to think that they would never do anything to intentionally hurt another human being. However history has shown that human nature does not always prevail with the best outcomes. The following experiments and real life events all reflect that human beings succumb to obedience even when common sense tells them that what they are doing is wrong. Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison experiment, Milgram’s electric shock study, and the scandal surrounding Abu Ghraib are reflections on the outcome of obeying a command regardless of the results and why someone would do so.

An experiment by Zimbardo provided insight on how a regular person changes roles when placed within a specific social setting. The Stanford Prison Experiment was conducted by Zimbardo strictly on a volunteer basis “to study the process by which prisoners and guards ”learn” to become compliant and authoritarian (732).” The study was intended to be done over a two week period however the volunteers became so caught up in being a prisoner or a guard that it was actually cut short. Both prisoners and guards jumped immediately into the roles given. The guards set out to prove their superiority and the prisoners after a brief attempt to overthrow the guards fell into obedience. Guard A originally states that he is a “pacifist and nonaggressive”, but by day three he portrays just the characteristics he claims to have none of (Zimbardo 741). The guards in the experiment were told to keep the prisoners in-line, they did so to their own accord. The prisoners in the experiment also in the end gave in to the rules of the authoritarian figures. Both the guards and the prisoners did what they felt they needed to do to survive throughout the experiment. So even though t...

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...ing position gives the orders? Where will we stop and make the decision that those in charge have gone too far? What would you do?

Works Cited

Barone, Paul T. “The Need for Positive Meaning in Military Operations: Reflections on Abu Ghraib.” Military Psychology, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. 2005, 17(4), 315-324.

Jones, Anthony R. “AR 15-6 Investigation of the Abu Ghraib Prison and 205th Military Intelligence Brigade.” United States Dept. of the Army. 2004. https://www-hsdl-org.jvlapps.nsuok.edu/?view&did=451656.

Milgram, Stanley. “The Perils of Obedience.” Writing And Reading Across The Curriculum. 11th Ed. Laurence Behrens and Leonard J. Rosen. Longman, 2011. 692-704. Print.

Zimbardo, Philip G. “The Stanford Prison Experiment.” Writing And Reading Across The Curriculum. 11th Ed. Laurence Behrens and Leonard J. Rosen. Longman, 2011. 732-743. Print.

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