Human Morality vs Conformity

Topics: Stanford prison experiment, Milgram experiment, Philip Zimbardo Pages: 5 (1650 words) Published: November 23, 2010
Hypervisibility- Human Morality versus Conformity
Through movies, TV shows, and the news, the media portrays the human race as compassionate, altruistic, and always good. Even the heroes who are considered “bad boys” end up making the right decisions when it comes down to a final decision of selfish needs versus heroism. Disney is especially pivotal in the spreading of the belief that people are inherently good among children, who grow up with this seemingly harmless belief. One such film is Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. In one memorable scene, Captain Jack Sparrow appears to have betrayed his fellow protagonists to the cursed pirates in order to gain wealth and power. However, he uses this as an act to surprise the villains with another double cross to give his friends a chance to gain the advantage. While it would seem that pirates like Jack Sparrow and his crew would be selfish, Disney instead shows them to forego wealth and risk danger for their friends, such as when his crew returns to rescue Sparrow from the British at the end of the film. Despite pirates being selfish and criminal by nature, Sparrow and his pirates are actually on a noble quest to stop a great evil in the form of a cursed crew of pirates and rescue the maiden who is their captive. In the sequel, Sparrow has a chance to escape the kraken that is coming after him by sacrificing his friends and crew to secure his getaway. In this instance too, Sparrow chooses the selfless sacrifice of himself to allow the others to escape by remaining to be eaten by the monster. In the final movie of the series, Sparrow is seeking immortality by stabbing the heart of Davy Jones. However, his friend is mortally wounded in the battle to take the heart. Rather than take the immortality he sought, Sparrow helps his friend stab the heart, giving his friend eternal life. The selfishness is all an act, and as in many films, the “bad boy” Sparrow chooses to be a hero. So films depict even pirates as good underneath their criminal, selfish exteriors. Media, especially Disney films, show human beings to be good and brave, with the bad and selfish being the minority. In real life, however, truly good and unselfish people are much more uncommon. It is dangerous to believe otherwise, as one must understand that even people who see themselves and their cause as “good” can cause great harm to others. As many social experiments have proven, human beings would choose their own survival by being self-centered and conforming, easily forgetting morality in the process and following the group decisions rather than their own moral compasses.

Following the atrocities committed in Nazi Germany, Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram designed an experiment to test a volunteer subject’s willingness to obey orders regardless of the orders’ morality. In the experiment, a subject met an actor, who would be the “student” and victim of shocks for each incorrect answer. The subject was informed of the 450-volt maximum for the experiment. The subject was then assigned the role of “teacher”, to apply a shock that increased with each increment. As the shock strength increased, so would the “pain” and pre-recorded “screams” of the actor student. Whenever the subject questioned his orders, an authority figure would prod him with verbal commands demanding obedience of his orders to continue. The experiment was terminated if the subject refused the order four times. None of the forty subjects questioned the experiment before the 300-volt shock and screams. Twenty-six of the forty subjects (65%) continued to shock the “victim” to the maximum setting of 450-volt. The subjects were aware of the extreme pain caused but proceeded regardless, and the experiment ended on the third consecutive 450-volt shock. Human nature is thus shown as conformist in the presence of authority and duty, and morality becomes an afterthought if it is even...
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