Experiments in social compliance show few people argue with authority figures

 | Lance D Johnson  04/03/2018 9:15 AM MDT
Credit: Geograph.co.uk

(Natural News) Many of us really are sheep, quick to follow the crowd and obey orders. Instead of standing up and speaking out on our own convictions, we often choose to fit in. Assimilating with the crowd, we find it’s easier to go-along to get-along, even if that means giving away our own power, rights, and dignity in the process. In fear of isolation, we do not question or challenge authority figures, even when they are morally and ethically wrong.

Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram unveiled this sad reality of human behavior in a social compliance experiment that showed how ordinary people will torture others under the social pressures of an authority figure. Milgram wondered why Nazi military personnel were so easily influenced to inflict torture and death on innocent people. His experiment gave us a window into the compliant nature of human psychology.

The experiment, detailed in Milgram’s 1974 book, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View, shows that when people are under the influence of an authority figure, they are easily coerced to repeatedly hurt others. In the experiment, Milgram asked volunteers to deliver an electric shock to a stranger. The volunteers didn’t know they would be shocking actors who were pretending to be hurt. Even after inflicting visible pain on others, the volunteers would continue to shock them only when they were ordered to do so by an authoritarian person in a lab coat. Even when the victims feigned heart attacks, only a small percentage of the volunteers chose to defy the orders of the authority figure. Most continued to torture their victims. According to Dylan Charles for Waking Times, “The suggested conclusion is that people are inherently unable to think for themselves when given a subordinate role in some authoritarian hierarchy…”