Essay on Authority and Obedience

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Authority and Obedience

Thesis: We consciously or unconsciously obey authority in all walks of life on a daily basis.

Obedience is when there is legitimate power, there is pressure to comply. Compliance with that which is required by authority; subjection to rightful restraint or control. Authority being the legal or rightful power; a right to command or enforce obedience on another. This essay shall discuss, explore and evaluate the explanations as to why people obey authority.

After the Nazi's justified genocide by saying that they were simply following orders, a psychologist named Stanley Milgram (1963) decided to carry out a study to try to answer the question of how far individuals
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He introduced a further participant, who was in fact an accomplice actor. The participants drew lots to determine who would be the learner and who would be the teacher. Brantt drew the teacher role, and the actor, the learner role. Brantt was unaware that the roles had been fixed. The lesson was to learn a verbal task and the teacher administered a shock each time the learner got the answer wrong. The shock was increased by one increment every time a wrong answer was given. The learner was strapped to a chair which was connected to a very imposing looking 'shock generator' which ranged between 15 volts and 450 volts. On the generator the words labeled the shock gage from 'slight shock' to 'DANGER: SEVERE SHOCK'. In fact, although it appeared to, the generator did not emit any electrical shock at all. The actor was instructed to cry out at 150 volts and intensify the level of verbal reaction as the volts increased. At 300 volts he was instructed to pound on the wall, later ceasing to reply or make any further noise. No response to a question was seen to be a wrong answer, therefore the teacher would be told to carry on shocking. The study was to be watched by the experimenter (the figure of authority who would order the teacher to continue to the end).

Brantt responded as Milgram had predicted. She was calm and cool.
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