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Why People Become Corrupt: Conformity, Obedience And The Power Of Situation

1455 words - 6 pages

How do nice people become corrupted? Sometimes people may engage in corrupt activity because others around them are doing so. Those people may find it difficult to take a stand against the corrupt behavior even though they know it is wrong. Although every situation is unique, ordinary people can find themselves in situations where they are committing fraudulent crimes unbeknownst to themselves. Other times, people may find themselves in a different situation of committing crimes because a person of authority has asked them to participate in illegal activity. In order to understand the negative consequences that result from this social influence, it is important to analyze the concepts of conformity, obedience and the power of the situation.

Conformity is defined as a change in behavior or belief to accord with others. (Meyers 170) What other people do and say can gradually influence others to deviate from ones beliefs and conform to another’s. One of the most famous documented studies to better illustrate this was a procedure performed by social psychologist, Solomon Asch.

Asch’s Conformity Procedure took participants and presented them with a set of lines. In one case showed a single line and the other showed a trio of lines. The participant’s task was simply to find which line in the trio of lines matched the single line in length. When looking at the lines, there is only one line of the trio lines that obviously matched the single line. What Asch did was put participants in groups as collaborators, which were the actors, to turn in a specific answer. This was rigged so the collaborators would give their answers first and then the real participant who thinks he’s a participant like the rest would gives their answer after the others. What concluded through this experimented was that if you have collaborators systematically giving the wrong answer, then majority of the people will give the wrong answer in fear of being the only one to say something different. (Meyers 158) The peer pressures created by a large group are such that the individual comes to decision radically different from the decision he would reach on its own. Here signifies an instance of social influence defeating visual perception.

Obedience is defined as the act in accord with a direct order. (Meyers 170) Authority on obedience yields as another contributor as to why nice people get corrupted. One of the most famous yet partially controversial experiments performed at Yale University to understand this concept was by social psychologist, Stanley Milgram.

In the attempt to explain the social pathology of the Holocaust, Milgram thought of conducting a research of not matching but illuminating. He knew that Hitler didn’t carry out the dreadful acts alone. Milgram wanted to know how Hitler was able to get tens of thousands of ordinary German citizens willingly to engage in these most horrible atrocious actions by torturing and killing millions of people. (Levine)
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