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Blind Obedience is a Dangerous Thing

Playing Obedient is common element found in everyday life.

From obeying teachers in school, security guards at events, policemen directing traffic, to safety signs. And linking back to my previous email, even an RAF officer on the road, we obey all the time, often blindly.

However, blind obedience is a dangerous thing and I would like to illustrate this point with an experiment that was conducted in the 1960s called The Milgram experiment.

The Milgram experiment was named after Stanly Milgram who conducted a number of controversial experiments in psychology.

Milgram wanted to find out if people would follow orders, even if the orders went against their conscience. He proved they would. There have been many repetitions and variations, with similar results.

Milgram set up a series of experiments where participants (acting as “teachers”) gave what they thought were electric shocks to “learners”.

The “learners” were actually actors, and the shocks were spoof (not real). The learners reacted as if they were in real pain. As the “shocks” increased, they acted as if in very bad pain.

If at any time the subject (“teacher”) wanted to stop the experiment, he was given a succession of verbal prods by the experimenter, in this order:
1. Please continue.
2. The experiment requires that you continue.
3. It is absolutely essential that you continue.
4. You have no other choice, you must go on.

If the subject still wished to stop after all four successive verbal prods, the experiment was halted. Otherwise, it was halted after the subject had given the maximum “450-volt” shock three times in succession.

Milgram found that some of the “teachers” became very nervous. For example, they would laugh and be unable to control it.

Before Milgram did his experiment, he asked fourteen Yale University psychology students what they thought the results would be.

On average, the students thought that 1.2% of the “teachers” would give the biggest electric shock of 450 volts.

In fact, in Milgram’s first set of experiments, 65 percent (26 of 40) of participants administered the experiment’s final massive 450-volt shock.

Milgram wrote about the experiment in his book Obedience to Authority: an experimental view. It was published in 1974. Milgram’s experiments have been done again by many psychologists, with very similar results.

Milgram offered two theories:
The first is the theory of conformism, describing the fundamental relationship between the group of reference and the individual person.

A subject who has neither ability nor expertise to make decisions, especially in a crisis, will leave decision making to the group and its hierarchy. The group is the person’s behavioural model.

The second is the agentic state theory, where “the essence of obedience consists in the fact that a person comes to view themselves as the instrument for carrying out another person’s wishes, and they therefore no longer see themselves as responsible for their actions.

Once this critical shift of viewpoint has occurred in the person, all of the essential features of obedience follow.

Are you the type of person who lets other people make the decisions for you or tell you what you should or should not do.

This maybe an authority figure, not necessarily in an uniform but it could be someone you look up to, an older sibling a trusted friend or even your parents.

If that is the case, well then it is high time you learn to think for yourself and plan your life out for yourself and not how someone else expects you to live it.
Will you make mistakes along the way? Of course you will! Everyone makes mistakes, that’s why they put erasers on the end of pencils.
And as the saying goes, a person who hasn’t made a mistake has never tried anything new.
When you make a mistake, there are only three things you should ever do about it: admit it, learn from it, and don’t repeat it.

Thought For The Day
“Unsuccessful people make decisions based on their current situation; successful people make decisions based on where they want to be”.

  • September 28, 2022

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