"The Perils of Obedience"
A study by Stanley Milgram that everyone who graduated from high school has at least heard or read about. The Milgram experiment was a psychology experiment where the subject was put in front of a row of buttons and given a list of questions and answers and given a simple set of instructions: read the question into the microphone. Await an answer over the speaker. If the answer is correct, move on to the next question and repeat until the end of the list. If the answer is wrong, then they must press the next button on the panel. The person answering the questions will receive an electric shock when the button is pressed. The higher up in the list of buttons you go, the bigger the shock delivered. After the shock is delivered, move on to the next question. The number one rule that the question asker must not violate is that he must continue the experiment no matter what happens. No matter what the voice over the speaker might say, they are to continue th experiment and get through the list of questions.
What the experiment revealed is that when people were left to decide for themselves whether or not to continue the experiment after they heard the voice on the speaker screaming and crying and begging them to stop ("because I have a heart condition"), most people felt empathy and stopped after the first handful of shocks.
However, the more interesting result was that empathy was easily short-circuited by the person overseeing the experiment telling the question asker "don't worry about it. I have full responsibility over anything that happens. You have no responsibility here - just continue the experiment." What they found was that most people would see the experiment through to completion - despite the voice on the speaker giving the impression that they had died of a heart attack a little more than halfway through!
Were these people psychotic? Or sociopaths? Or even sadists or just evil?
NO - they were simply absolved of responsibility by a "higher authority."
The experiment was primarily designed to show how the German soldiers in World War 2 could so casually execute their parts in the Holocaust. But the ramifications of the experiment in every day life was clear. You saw it in movies like "Clear and Present Danger" - when the Henry Czerny character sacrificed the lives of American soldiers and then Jack Ryan/Harrison Ford after the POTUS gave him his "get out of jail free" letter. You see it when your boss gives you an instruction that you feel uncomfortable doing (because it seems wrong/unethical) but follows it up with "don't worry, you're just doing what you're told. I'm responsible for this project, not you." Have you seen it happen among your friends, family and peers?
So the answer is obvious: humans can work at a slaughterhouse by finding a way to transfer any personal responsibility for their actions onto someone or something else. Whether they attribute it to "I'm just doing the job I'm assigned" or to "I can't help myself, I love doing it" or whatever pivot object they're using, all it takes is the perception of the transference of any personal responsibility for their actions from them to make pretty much *anything* possible (rape, murder, theft, pick-your-favorite-human-sin-or-atrocity... XD
The best one is "God told me to do it." XD
· 2 years ago