okay, without first asking for permission. So much for independent thinking. In interviews prior to the experiment, the respondents predicted that only the most “ sadistic ” 1.2% of participants would be willing to hurt another participant with electric shocks, yet 100% of those same participants DID administer the shocks. And two-thirds were willing to deliver fatal shocks to a stranger due solely to being instructed to do so by another stranger in a white coat. Presumably, deferring to authority relieves the individual of responsibility for their own (in)actions. The power of authority figures is indeed strong, verging on hypnotic. It ’ s the industrial- strength version of consensus trance. Some suggest this is an adaptive byproduct of children who unquestioningly followed adult instructions during the thousands of generations in our ancestral crucible 60 . Presumably, the penchant for adults to easily believe things that they are confidently told is a carryover from the children who did NOT eat the berries, touch the snake, or swim over a waterfall – these children survived to have children of their own. Sociology research indicates we also trust confident and charismatic people and prefer their predictions even if we know that other, more boring, uncharismatic analysts have better track records. It seems we are always on the lookout for someone else to tell us what to think. TaaL: Being eusocial has worked just as well - to increase biomass and population – for humans as it has for ants. However, the ability to function in huge colonies requires some mechanism to synchronize behavior. So added to the consensus trance is an “ imprinting ” on arbitrary authority which is little more selective than that of a newly hatched baby duck. Then we add to that mix the fact that the nature of human “ expertise ” now consists of isolated specialist knowledge, and that political authority is largely derived from confidence and, to an extent, even physical size. Regardless of which candidate is more grounded in factual information and truth, human political candidates who act absolutely sure of themselves are preferred over those who seem deliberate or nuanced. You ’ re still doing your best to find and follow mastodon hunters in an era of nuclear launch codes. My advice to humans with regards to the “ Milgram experiment ” is to treat it as important self-knowledge and spend some personal time reflecting about WHEN to pay attention to authority and when not to, and, for that matter, who to accept as an authority, if anyone.
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