Obedience As A Type Of Social Influence Essay

Obedience As A Type Of Social Influence Essay

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Obedience is defined as a type of social influence whereby somebody acts in response to a direct order from another person (Clemson, 2001 p. 105). Obedience is a necessary behaviour that is required in society so that order and progress can be made. Obedience is useful throughout society in business, politics and everyday life, however, if the authority that is directing orders is not questioned, obedience can be blind and destructive, resulting in catastrophic incidents. Stanley Milgram famously conducted controversial but groundbreaking research into human obedience to authority. This essay will first of all describe the background, the procedure and the results from the study and then go on to evaluate the validity and discuss the impact it has had on our understanding of obedience.

Milgram carried out his study of obedience to authority (1962 - 1963) with the intention to find to what extent people will obey authority. When trialled, veteran Nazis of World War Two claimed they were ‘only following orders’, and it was this that inspired Milgram to carry out his research (Cardwell, 1996 p. 53). “How is it possible… that ordinary people who are courteous and decent in every day life can act callously and inhumanly without any limitations of conscience?” asks Milgram (cheyennemangum, 2011). Milgram wanted to put to test the Hypothesis that Germans were naturally more obedient to authority as opposed to other nationalities and find out under what circumstances causes obedience to authority (Gross, 2010 p. 415).

For his original procedure, Milgram used 40 males between the ages of 20 and 50 as subjects, recruited through newspaper advertisements appealing for volunteers for a study of memory. The experiment was conducted in a labo...

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...thority to be questioned, as it is the case more often than not, that the authority many promote is not legitimate or deserved. This awareness promotes freethinking against authority figures that may have more sinister intentions.

Milgram’s research has told us that obedience levels depend on several aspects, perceived authority, context, social models and waved responsibility of actions. People’s tendency to obey authority has been shown to override any moral principles although the study has also shown that the people who are obeying orders that are immoral do suffer severe internal conflict when acting out these orders. This raises the question whether destructive obedience to authority is learned, instinctive, or both. Obedience therefore is a behavior of humans that can be positively constructive or, if not questioned by the individual, blindly destructive.

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