We Do What We’re Told

(File photo)
(File photo)

There was an experiment conducted by Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram that proved how people would willingly hurt each other simply by being told to do so.

The subject would believe that he was “teaching” a complete stranger how to improve their memory by giving electrical shocks for incorrect answers. The shocks would increase steadily with wrong answers. The “learner” would react painfully until the voltage reached a lethal dose, and then the “learner” would fall silent.

In actuality, the “learner” was an actor, playing a tape recording of a shock sound. No one was injured during the experiment.

While every test subject questioned the ethics of the experiment, every single one continued with it until they were administering 300-volt shocks. Some even went the full way to the lethal dose of 450 volts.

The experiment was used to show how powerful authority was. A person in a position of authority, Milgram proved, could convince someone to do something that was against their own morals. The person in authority in this case was the person running the test, telling the “teacher” to shock the “learner.”

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Further experiments had other actors in the room with the “teacher.” So, the “teacher” felt like they were part of a team.

I make note of this because of what’s going on in this country.

“Authority” can be taken many different ways. Politicians are authorities. Commentators on news shows are authorities. The constant deluge of social media creates a singular authoritative voice. People go down the rabbit hole into dark websites that advocate violence and hate.

We have to be very careful of the “authorities” in our lives. Who are we listening to? What do they want us to do? Why do they want us to act in this way? Why do they want us to think a certain way? What are their motives?

What happens if we say “no?”

Most people reading this will think “Yeah, other people need to stop listening to idiots telling them what to do.” Most people won’t realize that they are being manipulated as well.

We have a choice in what we watch. What we read. What we listen to. We have a choice in who we want to influence us.

We can choose to listen to people who advocate hate or we can choose to listen to people who advocate love.

Seems like it should be an easy choice.

Chris Lundy
News Editor