Authority and Obedience

1077 Words5 Pages
In today’s society it is human instinct to crave power, and to obey authority. Power is a mechanism individuals are taught to aspire to and obedience is norm individuals are told to conform to. When authority is present it is instinctual for a person to behave the way that the dominate tells them to even if what they are being told to do is wrong. Meanwhile, power can quickly go to a person’s head and make them react in cruel and demoralizing ways towards people they have supremacy over. The Milgram experiment and the Stanford prison experiment both show proof of what power and obligation to please authority can do to a person. Power and obedience may be at the opposite ends of the spectrum but they both bring out certain traits in human beings that are ethically and morally wrong. To have power over an individual can cause a person to display cruel behavior, while being solely obedient to authority can cause a person to act in a cowardly fashion The major divisions in today’s society make people want power, and when they receive it, they tend to abuse it for fear of losing it. Zimbardo’s prison experiment shows that even in hypothetical circumstances power people receive over individuals can be disastrous. His experiment portrays the different ways certain roles put on individuals can affect them. In the prison, the guards were given all the power and were allowed to do anything they wanted to the prisoners. The only measurable difference between the guards and the prisoners in this experiment was the guards were given complete authority and were given the power to inflict whatever kind of treatment they saw as fit. Most guards took advantage of this because “everyone and everything in this prison was defined by power” (Zimbardo 738). Power can bring out the absolute worst in an individual, and they will still abuse it. Being dominant and having power
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