The main focus of this synthesis paper is to determine the real meaning of obedience to authority. In this paper the author will be using three resources namely: Opinions and Social Pressure by Solomon E. Asch (1955), The Mind is a formidable jailer: A Pirandellian prison by Philip G. Zimbardo (1973) and The Perils of Obedience by Stanley Milgram. In Asch’s paper he tried to explain the effect of others’ opinion to our own. In short, he tried to answer the question: how strong is the urge toward social conformity through some unusual experiments.
In Zimbardo’s paper, he conducted an experiment where they simulated the life in prison so that they could see how people would react to authority and how people in authority would react to the power they possess. In Milgram’s paper, he conducted various experiments to test how obedient people are to authority. These texts will be the main basis of this paper. As said in the preceding paragraph, the focus of this paper is to give a definition to the word obedience.
This covers its limitations and the governing elements that surround it. Why do people follow other people’s orders?
Why do they let others boss them around? When does obedience become wrong? What draws the line between correct and wrong obedience? Furthermore, is there a right or wrong in terms of obedience? In this paper, the author will try to answer these questions in a manner which is as objective as possible based on personal opinion and also with the help of the said resources above.
Authority is a must for any given society. In any society there lies a governing body, an authoritative figure, a leader. Without authority there will be total chaos. And with authority comes obedience. Authority without obedience will be useless.
Power will be nothing when no one is there to follow. A leader could not be called a leader without its followers. Hence, obedience to authority was born. As said in Asch’s paper, the quest for the answer regarding social conformity started with the interest in hypnosis. One physician, Jean Martin Charcot, believed that only hysterical people could be fully hypnotized, but this was objected by two other physicians: Hyppolyte Bernheim and A. A. Liebault. The two believed that they could put most people under the hypnotic spell (Asch, 1955). This just shows how man wanted to take control of other beings.
This want is the driving force that leads man of wanting to be in charge of other people. In an experiment conducted by Zimbardo, he divided the volunteers into two groups: the guards and the prisoners. It was found out through the experiment that as the guards became more aggressive, prisoners became more passive (Zimbardo, 1973). This just proves the above point that when a person becomes more of a leader, another person becomes more of a follower. There will always be someone who will be willing to take a lead and there will always be someone who wants to become the subordinate.
A diary entry showed how some of the guards wanted to retain the power they once had over the prisoners: (1973) Sixth Day: “The experiment is over. I feel elated but am shocked to find some other guards disappointed somewhat because of the loss of money and some because they were enjoying themselves. ” They enjoyed being on top of another person. There was also an incident where some prisoners were taken out early of the experiment because they could not handle the situation they were facing, being under someone else (Zimbardo, 1973).
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