The Person You Respect

Of course, you do. Now ask yourself, do these people have authority over you? If so, how far would you go to obey them? When I was younger I was taught to respect authority, and this truth still holds. I follow the speed limit because I respect the law, and if I’m pulled over I respect the policeman. I also respect educators, my boss, my parents, etc.. What do all of these individuals have in common? Each of them has – or has had, in the case of my parents – authority over me.

But why is it so important that we understand who the authoritative figures in our lives are? According to the research of Dr. Stanley Milgram, Professor and conductor of the social psychology program at the City University of New York, these individuals who have authority over us hold disturbing amounts of power over the decisions that we make, whether or not we consciously give it to them.

The studies of Dr.

Milgram concerning obedience to authority have been conducted since 1961, beginning shortly after the start of the trial of Adolph Eichmann, the German high official who guiltlessly mass murdered 437,000 Jews in the Second World War. But Eichmann did not carry this out singlehandedly, meaning there were hundreds if not thousands of people doing the dirty work. But why would they commit these atrocities? Why obey the orders of someone who is requesting you to murder thousands of people? These are the same questions that Dr. Milgram asked. In 1961, Milgram began recruiting his subjects and told them that the experiment was to study the relationship between learning and punishment and each who participated would receive a small sum just for showing up.

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Each of the subjects thought that they had a chance at being either a teacher or student, but in actuality, each of them was destined from the start to play the role of a teacher.

An actor took on the role of an experimenter that was meant to watch them as they performed the experiment. A list of four words is given to the learner, a man by the name of Mr. Wallace, who is covered with electrodes. If the student answered the question the teacher asks incorrectly, the learner is supposedly delivered an electric shock. Luckily for Mr. Wallace, the teachers are actually listening to a recording. The controversial issue of this experiment is that the teacher believes they are shocking the other person at increasing levels of severity. If the teacher refused to deliver the shock, the experimenter prods them on with more and more encouragement ranging from coaxing to telling them they have no other choice but to continue.

The results of this experiment were disturbing; two-thirds of the participants in Milgram’s study proceeded to electrocute the student to the highest voltage of 450, and all of them got to at least 300. For accuracy, Milgram carried out this experiment eighteen different times, varying the situation to see what effects it had on obedience. There has been much controversy in Dr. Milgram’s approach due to the nature of his behavioral experiments, but those who get caught up in this are missing the point. The implications of this study clearly tell us that there is much to be learned in the realm of behavioral psychology. How much do we actually know about our own nature? Read all about the details of Stanley Milgram’s experiment in his upcoming book, Obedience to Authority, which will be released this coming year.

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The Person You Respect. (2022, Dec 13). Retrieved from

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