Negative Consequences of Obedience to Authority

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Negative Consequences of Obedience to Authority Obedience is one of the most basic tenants of social life. It is a requirement of any form of communal living (Milgram, 1963). Society itself is predicted upon existence. All political purpose is linked to individual action through way of obedience. Theory and observations of social interaction has led researchers to believe that obedience is, for many people, a deeply ingrained trait (Milgram 1963). While having the potential for educative purpose and promoting acts of charity, it can also cause the most ethical and moralistic to abandon their core values and seemingly close their eyes while following an unjustified authority. Starting in the early 60's, Stanley Milgram began to investigate this destructive form of obedience. However, Milgram's classic experiments have come under severe attack. Some critics argue that their validity hinges on the acting ability of the learner and experimenter, and that most subjects were probably able to sense the unreality of the situation. Others question the relevance of the laboratory results to the larger world. Still others question the ethics of the basic experimental design. Milgrams famous experiments entitled "obedience to authority" followed the aftermath of the Holocaust and the events leading up to World War II. The world was stunned with the happenings in Nazi German and their acquired surrounding territories that came out during the Eichmann Trials. Eichmann, a high ranking official of the Nazi Party, was on trail for war crimes against humanity. The question was, "Could it be that Eichmann, and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Stanley Milgram answered the call to this problem by performing a series of studies on the Obedience to Authority. In the study, the subjects who answered an ad to be volunteers for an experiment for $4.50 an hour, were led to believe the purpose of the experiment was to study learning and memory. All subjects were then placed in a room in front of a shock generator and told that he was the "teacher". The "teacher then watched as the "learner", an actor, was led to a chair that strongly resembled a small electric chair and strapped into it. The teacher was then required by the experimenter to read word pairs to the learner. If the learner could not respond with the correct answer in a set period of time, the teacher would be told to administer increasing levels of shocks (from 15 to 450 volts and labelled from "slight shock" to Severe Shock - Danger" with the two highest voltages rated 'XXX'".

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