More Thanh Words

"My name is Thanh and I'm a Blogger". Now that I have admitted to that, I can say that I'm a stereotypical "geeky" Engineer who enjoys sci-fi books and movies and into all things technological. I also love music and have a passion for FOOD. I'm a social person and like to talk to people. I hate people who are fake or overly aggressive. If you're also into some serious discussion, with a pinch of sarcasm and a dash of real emotion, then please read on.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Obedience to Authority or Just Conformity

I've recently started to read Psyblog, a blog by Jeremy Dean, who is currently studying psychology. I've always had an interest into how people's minds work, and hence have found his blog extremely interesting. His posts of various research into how human thinks always provides me with things to think about myself.

His latest post is about Stanley Milgram's experiment on whether people are obedient to authority or just conformers. Milgram's experiment aimed to find out how far humans will go when an authority figure orders them to hurt another human being.

But Milgram didn't investigate the extreme situation of war, he wanted to see how people would react under relatively 'ordinary' conditions in the lab. How would people behave when told to give an electrical shock to another person? To what extent would people obey the dictates of the situation and ignore their own misgivings about what they were doing?

This type of experiment would never be allowed nowadays, so this data would be very hard to replicate. However, from his experiments, he found that 63% of the participants continued right until the end - they administered all the shocks even with the learner screaming in agony, begging to stop and eventually falling silent. The shocks were fake and an actor was screaming. But did the particpants know this and hence played along or are people really obedient.

To find the answers would be very insightful into how humans operate, but unless the experiments were more real, it is always hard to gauge how people will act in any situation. You can theorise all you like what you might do in a plane crash for example, but unless you really are in a crash, you won't know how you will feel. In general though, people tend to underestimate bad parts of their personality and overestimate good parts. If this is true, then I think most people, if pushed, would administer shocks to other people.

What does this experiment tell us about ourselves? I'm still trying to reach a conclusion. Does it mean that most people will become savages if pushed enough. I don't know if that is true, but it does show humans have a more evil side as well. I think the common movie scenario of chaos when laws are removed is not too far from the truth. To an extent, what is keeping us civilised is an obedience to authority. Without those rules, I would think that society would go through a period of turmoil until naturally new rules would develop. Regardless of what those new rules are, people will again obide to those rules to try and survive.


Post a Comment

<< Home