The Evils of Obedience
If one was to be asked to follow through with an order to inflict pain on another human being, would they obey this order? Many would answer “Never!” Yet, humans have been following orders such as these since the beginning of time, for example, the Holocaust or the murdering of innocent civilians during the Vietnam War. Some may think these people are psychopaths, but could they also be ordinary people followings the orders of a higher power or simply being influenced by a group? People obey; this is a basic fact of human society. As psychologist Stanley Milgram writes, “Obedience is as basic an element in the structure of social life as one can point to. Some system of authority is a requirement of all communal living…” (693). This theory of human obedience to an authoritative figure or group pressure drives psychologists Stanley Milgram as well as authors Doris Lessing and Solomon E. Asch to perform a series of separate experiments in order to understand human obedience and its causes. Doris Lessing and Solomon E. Asch believe that human obedience and disobedience are influenced most through group pressure. In Doris Lessing’s article “Group Minds,” Lessing feels that human beings are still “group animals;” always seeking groups to be a part of and if one group withers away, they look for another. When in a group, humans tend to think as a group, “but we also find our thinking changing because we belong to a group. It is the hardest thing in the world to maintain an individual dissident opinion, as a member of a group” (Lessing, 724). To prove this theory of group obedience, Lessing constructs an experiment involving the comparison of two pieces of wood that are different yet very similar to one another in length and shape. The majority in the group act stubbornly insisting that the two pieces of wood are the same length and shape. Meanwhile the individuals in the minority, who have not been instructed, continue asserting that the...
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