Obedience is a kind of social influence. This influence makes an individual to yield to orders given by another person. The person giving an order is usually in authority and the authority makes the person given an order to obey.
Zimbardo and Milgram conducted experiments that revealed interesting aspects of human individuals. People obey regardless of possible injuries to others or deviating from their own value systems and cultural and individual characteristics affect relationships to authority.
Milgram’s did an experiment involving forty participants. The teachers had to punish learners who made mistakes. The learners were tied to an electric chair in which they would receive electric shocks and the volt level would be increased with every mistake made.
The highest level of volts was 450 and 65 percent of the participants gave punishment to this level (Borge 1). The possible explanation for the participants obeying to carry out the punishment regardless of the danger it posed to the learners could have been that they felt they had an obligation to complete the task.
This is because they had volunteered and thus felt that all the participants were ready to handle all the consequences of the experiment. Similarly, people will obey because they feel it is their obligation. People also obey those in authority just as the teachers obeyed the experimenters.
The teachers hurt the learners despite the screams and thus put their individual values aside to obey authority. This means that people will disregard their individual moral values and become destructive or involve in harmful behaviour just because they are unable to defy authority (Milgram 1).
This is because obedience in the society is a requirement for authority and it is ingrained in people such that they disregard characteristics such as sympathy or their moral and ethical systems. This obedience to authority may be the explanation for torturing of prisoners or suspects to confess.
Zimbardo did an experiment of a mock prison some people had the role of prison guards and others acted as prisoners. The prison guards took their role seriously and mistreated the prisoners for example sexual humiliation, stripped them naked, forced them to wash toilets without protective gear on their hands and denied then mattresses and so forth (O’Toole 1).
This experiment shows that some people will obey authority blindly because of the situation. Thus, the culture can influence how an individual responds to the authority. In some cultures, obedience is the norm of the society. This means that those in authority are obeyed and any form of disobedience is unacceptable.
People in such circumstances will obey any orders given by those in authority even if the orders are evil. People who are generally good will do evil in the name of obedience. For example, the perpetrator of cruelty in the Nazis camp Adolf Eichmann said during trial that he did what he did because he was following orders (Human Obedience to Authority 1).
Finally, people have done evils in the name of obedience. They suspend their moral values, follow orders from those in authority, and at times do unthinkable acts.
Obedience is good but when people use it to do evil things there is something wrong in the society because people turn against their fellow human beings just because someone gave an order. Some acts are so evil that one would be tempted to think those who commit them are crazy but in the light of the two experiments that is not always the case.
Borge, Caroline. Basic Instincts; the Science of Evil. abcnews.go.com. 3 Jan. 2007.
Human Obedience to Authority. simplypsychology.pwp. n.d. Web. 14 Oct. 2010.
Milgram, Stanley. The perils of obedience. home.swbell.ne. 1974. Web. 14 Oct. 2010.
O’Toole, Kathleen. The Stanford Prison Expereiment; Still powerful after all these years.
news.stanford.edu. 1 Aug. 1997. Web. 14 Oct. 2010.