stanley milgram obedience experiment

Why do we obey so easily?

The 1961 Stanley Milgram experiment is astonishing to say the least. Due to the extreme results it is much easier to reflect on the idea of obedience and it reveals how easy it really is to get people to conform and obey. In the Milgram experiment, all the people needed was to be told it was a test and when they saw the “scientist” in the white lab coat, they were all in. Even someone who is incredibly intelligent can be found victim to this way of thinking. Where does this come from and how can it possibly be so easy? Inside of everyone is a part that is constantly in fear and always wants to control. This can also be considered as the archetype of the tyrant, this perspective fears the unknown and without control it will cease to exist.

The danger of the “group mind”

Humans naturally gravitate to each other. It is hard-wired in all of us to be a part of the group. This, I would imagine, is for survival reasons. In the past, in more hostile environments, gathering together was extremely valuable. But that idea has since evolved, or, devolved in a way. Now, being a part of a group is simply important because we have been told that it is. Again, our social conditioning must be recognized in order to make any sort of breakthroughs. Not only have we been conditioned by others, (i.e. our parents, teachers, media, etc.) but we have actually gained the ability to condition ourselves! Similarly to the idea on anxiety, which goes through a feedback loop, any time we think about trivial problems such as, “will I be accepted by the group” it goes through a loop and we think more and more about those thoughts. From there, we can further drive home these concepts that we didn’t even create and have no idea where they come from! Instead, we blindly build them up and they become extremely important to us. The way this ties in to the role of the controller is that we have been told that by conforming or obeying we will be safe. We will be fine if we listen to authority because we have been told that the authority has the best intentions for us. Unfortunately, this provides a safe haven for the controller. To be in control, all I have to do is conform, it is so easy!


By Austin Davie