Social Influence: Obedience to AuthorityObedience is when an individual would act in response to a direct order from another person. Some situations move beyond requests for action and entail direct orders from one person to another. Although obedience is needed for society to function, it can also have destructive effects in the wrong authority. (Baumrind, 1964, 421) People may obey orders of a destructive manner that can have detrimental effects, for example people obeying their leaders with orders of torture and killing. However, obedience can also be used for good, because without obedience society would not function successfully. In 1974, Stanley Milgram conducted a study that proved how well people obey authority figures.
The experiment involved a teacher and a learner. The learner was placed in one room, hooked up to electrodes, and asked to answer questions administered by the teacher. The teacher, in the other room was told to give an electric shock to the learner every time he answered incorrectly. In addition to the shock, the teacher was to increase the shock 15 volts every time the learner responded incorrectly.
The voltage levels ranged from 15 to 450 volts. The teacher was informed that the shocks would hurt, but would not cause any damage to the learner. (Milgram, 2004, 131-35)As the voltage increased with each shock, the teacher could hear the learner cry out in pain. At 300 volts, most of the teachers would question the nature of the experiment, and then were reassured by the experimenter and told to go on. As the voltage of the shocks increased, the learner would pound on the wall and continue to cry out.
Even though many teachers struggled to give the shock; some sweating, becoming agitated, or trembling, most administered the shock up to the 450-volt level (Milgram, 2004, 131-35). Fortunately, no real shocks were given in this experiment. The learner was pretending to be shocked (Milgram, 1963, 371-78). The only true shock of this experiment was the morality of the teacher. In all of the situations, the teacher was a normal person. In one situation, the teacher was a devout catholic, who hesitated to give the shock, but once she was told to go on by the experimenter, she continued to the 450-volt shock.
Amazingly, sixty five percent of the teachers went all the way to the 450 volts (Milgram, 2004, 131-35). So does this experiment conclude that a large majority of our population is unethical; absolutely not. It proves that people tend to respect and comply with the demands of authority figures. In many cases, that respect has been abused in such situations of the holocaust. Not every Nazi soldier agreed with Hitler and happily exterminated millions of Jewish people.
Not every person who is told to lie by a respected individual believes what they are doing is right. (Milgram, 1963, 371-78) Given the knowledge based on this experiment, the power authority figures hold can be used to do good things for our world. Authority may also be the answer to weight loss. Many people spend time and money on dieting; work out tapes, gym memberships, and exercise equipment. The problem with these weight loss solutions, more often than not, is the inability for a person to be consistent with a programme. If gyms would require that there members use their membership three to four days a week for two months, people might tend to stick with their exercise program.
Requiring that members make an appointment to exercise might even work, especially if there is a small fee for members who frequently cancel their work out appointments.