Outline the Key Issue for the Social Approach

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Blind obedience is when a person carries out an order even if it goes against their moral values or codes. Prejudice is an unjust attitude towards an individual solely based on their membership of a social group. Both of these issues were present in Abu Ghraib Prison (Iraq). They occurred when American soldiers commit terrible act upon Iraqi prisoners staying there. The soldiers claimed they were merely following orders, but scepticisms have been made about whether it was blind obedience or prejudice that made them commit the acts. There are 2 main theories that help to explain what blind obedience and prejudice are, and why they occur. One theory is agency theory which was proposed by Milgram (1974). Agency theory suggests that at any particular time, a person is in one of two psychological states; an autonomous or an agentic state. When in an autonomous state, people are free, do as they wish and take responsibility for their actions. When in an agentic state, people surrender their free will and conscience and become agents to those of a higher authority. They let others direct their decisions and pass off the responsibility for the consequences to the person giving the orders. (When in an agentic state, it is possible for people to suffer from moral strain – this is when someone is told to do something that they feel is morally wrong, but do it anyway.) Milgram suggested that there are 2 things that need to be in place for someone to enter the agentic state: the first is the person giving orders to be seen as a legitimate figure qualified to direct other people’s behaviour, and the second is the person following orders must believe that the authority figure will accept responsibility for anything that happens. A study to support this theory is Milgram’s study of obedience (1963) using electric shocks. In this study, Milgram wanted to answer the question, ‘are Germans different? ’Milgram asked 40 male participants to take part in a ‘learning and memory’...
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