This episode was inspired by reading Influence, The Psychology of Persuasion by Professor Robert Cialdini, who says certain triggers can influence human decisions almost automatically.
Trusting in authority is beneficial on many fronts. Too much blind trust, however, and we get a dictatorship. Not enough we end up with anarchy.
Today, I’m referring to mindless obedience to authority.
Automatic obedience to authority often occurs via chains of command – military, religion, academia, medicine…
No one thinks to question it! Or at least it’s not accepted or permissible to do so.
For example in 1986, to protest shipments of arms by USA military to Nicaragua, three men laid down on railroad tracks.
They informed the military of their intent three days prior…
On the day of the shipment, the civilian train engineers were instructed by the military NOT to stop and ended up running a man over and severed both legs.
The Institute of Medicine, which reports to the USA Congress, stated that hospital deaths from medical errors exceed all accidents…
In the book, Medication Errors: Causes and Prevention, Temple University professors of pharmacy attribute mindless deference to their bosses as a major contributor.
A physician wrote out a prescription for ear drops for an ear infection in the right ear. The ear drops were given in the anus, by the nurse. She blindly followed what she read on the bottle. She did not think critically about the fact that the doctor wrote “R ear”, which meant right ear, not REAR…
This topic began to be important to me in the last few years. I could not for the life of me understand why so many intelligent people just blindly went along with the narratives – locking themselves inside, not going to church or temples, injecting untested and unproven experimental vaccines in their bodies and more.
One of the most famous studies of obedience in psychology was carried out by Stanley Milgram, a psychologist at Yale University. He conducted an experiment focusing on the conflict between obedience to authority and personal conscience.
The procedure was that the participant was paired with another person and they drew lots to find out who would be the ‘learner’ and who would be the ‘teacher.’ The draw was fixed so that the participant was always the teacher, and the learner was one of Milgram’s confederates (pretending to be a real participant).
The learner was taken into a room and had electrodes attached to his arms, and the teacher and researcher went into a room next door that contained an electric shock generator and a row of switches marked from “15 volts (Slight Shock)” to “375 volts (Danger: Severe Shock)” to “450 volts (XXX)”.
Ordinary people are likely to follow orders given by an authority figure, even to the extent of killing an innocent human being.
Obedience to authority is ingrained in us all from the way we are brought up.
People tend to obey orders from other people if they recognize their authority as morally right and/or legally based. This response to legitimate authority is learned in a variety of situations, for example in the family, school, and workplace.
It’s important to understand how obedience and compliance works, what healthy dissent is, and to look critically at each situation we’re in.
Make sure you’re following authority that aligns with your own inner compass!
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