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The Effects Of Obedience: A Comparative Critique

1555 words - 7 pages

Throughout the years obedience has had an enormous effect on human history. It has caused nations to rise and fall, prosper and suffer; yet it has also brought destruction among innocent people in several gruesome measures. The holocaust is one of the best known examples of the perils of obedience. Hitler caused otherwise normal people to commit atrocious acts, acts that nearly exterminated all of the Jewish people. Philip Zimbardo, a professor of psychology at Stanford university, questions to what extent will a person allow themselves to be imprisoned by obeying others commands; Andrew Wolfson, a senior investigative reporter working for the Louisville Courier Journal, similarly discusses ...view middle of the document...

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“A hoax most cruel: Caller coaxed Mcdonald’s managers into strip-searching a worker” presented Andrew Wolfson with a rather disturbing scam. Louise Ogborn, an 18 year old churchgoing employee at Mcdonalds, became the suspect of a crime that was never committed. According to the man on the phone, “Officer Scott”, she had stolen a purse and needed to be strip searched. Summers, her manager, led her to the restaurants office and began the process, doing what the caller told her to step by step. Of course she claims that she asked him questions about why she had to do this, but he sounded like a legitimate police officer to her. After a few hours she told “Officer Scott” that she had to get back to the counter, and at his request she called her fiance. He forced her to perform sexual deeds at the callers command, and threatened to hit her if she refused. He was not the only one. Several cases were reported were the managers were so intent on doing as the caller asked that they even fought off the victim's family. However, finally Nix, summers fiance, had to leave and he called in the janitor. It was he who refused the callers demands and realized something was amiss. The result of this traumatic event affected everyone involved. Both Summers and Nix ended up in jail, and Ogborn was never the same. She began to suffer from panic attacks,nightmares, anxiety, and depression as a result. As Wolfson’s title suggest this was truly a hoax most cruel.
Both of these articles are adjoined by the fact that the people under command were very quick to obey, even if it was an unethical order. Zimbardo said that managed to obtain nearly complete control over the prisoners. They did so by the use of force; they used insults, threats, aggression, and nightsticks to keep the prisoners in check. As a result the prisoners began to stop resisting the unethical commands and did as they were told. Wolfson, on the other hand wrote that the Mcdonalds managers and the victim herself were quick to obey. They believed that the caller was a police officer and because he was a higher authority than them they obeyed him. The fact that the people in each situation were so quick to obey suggest that people can be manipulated very easily. The illusion of power was enough to make all of the victims comply to the orders of whomever they felt was in charge. This is disturbing information as it could and has lead to several other disasters of similar nature.
Zimbardo was careful that he only used normal people in his experiment, and it turns out the people involved in Wolfson’s article were fairly normal as well. Zimbardo states that the fact that normal people turned so sadistic towards each other is bad because it could happen to anyone. However, neither author addresses how the effects of obedience could be used in a positive direction. They presume that obedience can be used to manipulate others into gruesome situations, but never really consider how obedience can be used...

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