Perils of Obedience

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CTW 2 June 9, 2010 Disobey Immorality, Obey Conscience Obedience is a necessary component in accomplishing most objectives. It involves cooperation and compliance to an authoritative figure in which one displays his or her ability to obey orders. In our society, obeying orders is a quality that shows respect and loyalty to those in control. When these orders require one to partake in something morally wrong, it is up to the individual to decide if carrying out certain orders is worth compromising one’s moral beliefs. To demonstrate this tendency to obey authority to the extreme, one may look at Stanley Milgram’s experiment, completed in 1961. Milgram’s “Perils of Obedience” was the first study conducted that addressed exactly how far the participants would go under the power and influence of authority. There were 3 people who were involved each time the experiment was conducted, the “experimenter”, the “learner”, and the “teacher”. The only actual participant was the “teacher” and the other two were actors. The “teacher” would receive orders from the “experimenter” to give an electric shock to the “learner” after every question they got incorrect and the “experimenter” would demand the “teacher” to up the voltage after every mistake. The “teacher” could either obey the orders given by the “experimenter”, or refuse to continue in the experiment. In conducting this test, it became evident that people had no trouble obeying a higher authority, particularly when told they would not be held responsible for the fate of the subject. Obedience tends to increase with the prestige of the authority figure. Since the study was done by an undergraduate research assistant posing as a Yale professor, the participants were definitely more willing to comply with the orders they were given because they felt more obligated to impress and seek recognition

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