The Legitimate Authority Theory Essay

The Legitimate Authority Theory Essay

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Obedience is a form of social influence in which a person yields to explicit instructions or orders from an authority figure. Already at an early age we are taught to obey authority figures within our social groups through influences such as parents, teachers or even religious establishments.
The Agency Theory (Milgram 1963) supports the idea that a person will obey the Authority figure and work as an agent for this authority figure under the implied possibility of there being no consequences to their actions as either the authority figure will take on no liability or said authority figure has justified these action therefore they are acceptable. The strongest evidence supporting this theory was gained after researching WW2 German soldiers who were stationed at the labor and death camps. When asked why they committed these atrocities they simply responded “we were ordered to do this” (Mike Haralambos et al (2002) Psychology in Focus A Level).
The Legitimate Authority theory (Milgram 1963) strongly links into the Agency theory. As stated beforehand one must recognize an individual or a collective of individuals as authority figures before acting on their behalf. This theory suggests that we obey those seen as authority figures as were are taught to do so from an early age. A legitimate authority figure can be individuals or organizations such as the government, the boss at work, a police officer or as demonstrated in Milgram’s study (1963) a scientist.
The Gradual Commitment theory (Milgram 1963) expounds that an individual will willingly perform seemingly harmless, trivial tasks. Milgram’s participants were encouraged to obey the experimenter by the gradual steps they were directed to take. This was accomplished with increasi...


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...rying out the orders. They were not supposed to take instructions by phone, let alone exceed the allowed dose.



Works Cited


Eysenck, M. and Flanagan, C. (2000) Psychology for AS level, Hove, Psychology Press
Cox, E. (2008) AS Psychology, London, Philip Allan Updates Page 206
Mike Haralambos et al (2002) Psychology in Focus A Level, The Bath Press Page 144
The following studies were taken from this book:
Hofling (1966)
http://www.psychology4a.com/Social%20influence.htm November 11, 2013
http://aspsychologyblackpoolsixth.weebly.com/obedience.htmlNovember 11, 2013
http://aspsychology101.wordpress.com/social-psychology/November 11, 2013
http://atheism.about.com/od/warandmorality/a/jusadbellum_3.htmNovember 11, 2013

Coralie et.al 2013 www.coraliethirietpsychology.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/obedience-experiment-coralie-medisa-zahra-bryony-and-jesse/ 13 November 2013

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