Jan 11, 2020 in Research

Nature of Obedience to Authority

Nature endowed the men with such a diversity of skills and opportunities that it is rather difficult to list all of them. However, the people use their abilities unevenly paying no attention to the hidden features or concentrating on a few that are clearly expressed. Taking into account that each person is an integral member of society, the social factor often plays the most significant role in the person’s making of accents. This influence is so substantial that it is difficult to understand what human traits, habits, and reactions have the natural origin and what of them were formed under the influence of society. Thus, the psychologists for the centuries are arguing about the nature of majority people’s behavioral manners. The obedience is one of these controversial objects that provokes endless discussions at all times, including nowadays. The paper aims at analyzing the different perspectives regarding the nature of the obedience to authority to find out whether the obedience or disobedience is natural to the people.


Before speaking about the nature of obedience, it is important to understand the essence of this concept. From the early childhood, parents teach their children to obey them and other adults who know more and can give them wise advice. Thus, the obedience mostly is considered to be the one of the primary human virtues that means their ability to consider the thoughts of other more authoritative persons than they are. It promotes the forming of “authoritarian conscience that is the internalized voice of authority whom we are eager to please and afraid of displeasing”. Thus, the obedience to the authority is an authoritarian conscience in action. However, not each person can obey everyone or everything in her or his environment because of numerous individual and social factors. Moreover, not any of authorities could be considered as worth to obey them. Taking into account these facts, the question about the justification of the disobedience appears. In some cases, it seems to be more natural than the obedience. Here is the discussed dilemma.

There are two the most famous experiments in psychology that aimed at investigation of the obedience’s nature. The first of them, Milgram’s experiment, made an accent on the blind implementing of the orders even when such behavior can harm the innocent people. Obviously, acting without any hesitations mostly means the innate reaction that may be considered as the confirmation of natural origin of the obedience. However,   this argument can easily be refuted if take into account the fact of participants’ reasoning of their acts. Most of them were sure that those who commands, the authority, in other words, took the complete responsibility for the situation and thus, participants did not consider themselves as the crucial factor in the experiment. It most likely reveals the human aspiration to remain in the individual comfort zone and be uncharged with the responsibility for their acts than confirms the natural origin of the obedience to authority. If taking into account that obedience for a long time was considered as a virtue when disobedience was a sin, one can claim that human prevailing choice to obey is an aftermath of the need to be protected because disobedience means the blame and troubles.

In contrary to the previous study another experiment, called as Stanford prison experiment, emphasizes the environmental origin of the obedience. The experimental groups of people were situated in the condition of the prison where half of them should be the guards and the others were the prisoners. The participants reproduced the real prison environment as soon as nobody even could expect. The experiment was stopped because of transforming it into a dangerous situation. Thus, the conclusion about the crucial role of the environment was done. It partially could be justified, especially if considering the human ability to confirmation. The interpersonal relations are underlying the social communication where “one person is the source of influence, and the other is the target”. However, only the person chose her or his individual role. In the case of Stanford experiment the roles were determined by the organizers and the participants could play their parts according to the stereotypes grounded on the widespread information about prison life. 

Even if consider all of arguments and counterarguments mentioned above the obedience is still seems to be more naturally to the humans than disobedience. However, it is worth to put oneself the question about the reason for individual and social development to find out the confirmation to disobedience nature origin. Most likely, the majority of the people can agree that obedience could not be associated with the progress because it means saving of settled order of things not changing them. At the same time, the disobedience is inextricably linked with the changes that are the crucial precursor for diverse transformations. Even the human ancient history began with the act of disobedience when Adam and Eva ignored the order of Good. Because of this act, first people should leave their comfort zone and take the responsibility for their life in their hands. This fact could be evaluated from different perspectives as any other. Thus, the rationality of the disobedience can serve as the measure for its assessments.  

The disobedience to the authority that acts in the name of reason could not be justified, but when the authority tries to exploit the personality, the disobedience is rather rational. Thus, the world history knows a lot of examples when the civil disobedience was the first step towards the democratic transformations. The latest events in the Ukraine are the brightest example of changing the country its political reformation through the civil resistance or disobedience. 

Thus, there is no a single answer to the question whether the obedience or disobedience is natural to the human. In one case, the obedience is evident necessary and thus natural, and via verse, in another situation it is not advisable when the disobedience is considered to be more natural. According to Erich Fromm “if the people can only obey and not disobey they are the slaves and if they only disobey not obey they are the rebels. It means that the disobedience as natural to human as the obedience and applying both of them is justified by the rationality of their essences.  

After all, one can see that the ability to think critically is the core aspect regarding the human behavioral manners. Every people’s act and reaction births firstly in their heads. They are the manifestation of person’s moral choice based on his or her set of values and humanity. Obedience and disobedience are also only a result of the human thinking process and depending on the situation each of them could be considered as natural so unnatural. If the fact that disobedience is the way of protest related to violence is widely known, the threat of obedience to the developmental process is underestimated although it is not less dangerous for society. Taking into account this fact, it is easy to understand that the obedience is as natural to humans as disobedience, but the appropriate applying of them is the issue of personal human responsibility.   


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