Why People Obey

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Milgram (1974) gave reasons for obedience. Obedience is a type of influence causing a person to act person to act in response to a direct order from someone with perceived authority. In this essay I am going to explain Milgram’s reasons on why people obey. The process of learning throughout life or when a person learns to adjust to a group and act like the group is called socialisation. It is a central influence on behaviour, beliefs action but the society that one is raised in can also affect the level if independence. Goldhagen (1996) blamed anti- Semitism rather that obedience. He said it was the ordinary Germans; (mainly Christians) who caused the holocaust because the traditional church teaching that blamed the Jews for the death of Christ. The German society had made people suspicious and aggressive towards Jews and this was part of everyday life. The factors that create a physical or emotional feeling between the participant and the person being harmed increase the rate of obedience are called buffers. In other words it is providing a physical and psychological barrier between a person and consequences of their obedience. For example in Milgram’s study when participants had to force the learners hand onto a shock plate only 30% obeyed, whereas 40% obeyed when the teacher and the learner were in the same room. Buffers allow people to distance themselves emotionally from the consequences of their actions.

When people try to justify themselves when something happens by putting it one someone else it called justification. Milgram (1974) found out that some obedient participants gave up responsibility for their actions, blaming the experimenter. If anything had happened to the learner, they thought it would have been the experimenter’s fault. Others had transferred the blame to the learner saying they were stupid and stubborn and they deserved to be shocked.

However Mandel (1998) said that Migram’s explanations of obedience were oversimplified and...
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