Thursday, June 16, 2011

Perceptions of Authority

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Perceptions of Authority

In 166 Hofling conducted an experiment whereby a fake drug was planted in the medicine cabinet of a hospital. The maximum dosage of the drug was clearly marked on the bottle. A confederate, acting as a doctor, gave a telephone instruction to a nurse to administer an exceeded dose of the drug to a patient. The nurse, without further discussion did this. When later questioned the nurse admitted her reservations but also her reluctance to question the request, as this was not acceptable by doctors.

Another experiment conducted was by Zimbardo in 17 whereby a group

of volunteers were selected to take part in a psychological study of prison life. The subjects were given either roles as prisoners or prison guards. Although weeks study was intended for the experiment, it was stopped within days due to the extreme behavior changes in both groups. It seemed that the roles of each became too realistic in that the guards began abusing their power and authority towards the prisoners and the prisoners themselves became very distressed and withdrawn.

Custom Essays on Perceptions of Authority

The findings in these experiments imply that we have been conditioned by society to accept orders from figures in roles of authority, and that we act, towards these figures,in a way that is expected of us with little regard to our own opinions, even if the consequences may be damaging. We perceive someone in a ‘higher’ role as someone who has more knowledge and responsibility therefore do not feel it acceptable to question their requests. This feeling may be reinforced by the adverse reaction of a ‘questioned’ authority figure.

Although a level of respect needs to be maintained and roles are important for a well functioning society, it seems that the status held by such authorities can inflict a disregard for the views and opinions for a ‘lesser’ status person.

The studies also show that acting in a way that is expected of you may strengthen the higher roles authority.

With regard to my views on the studies, I think that the Zimbargo experiment shows the extent to which a persons behavior can change when given a different role in society, even if this is a behavior they did not realise was present in themselves. With this in mind I feel that this experiment may be bordering on unethical. Although in this instance the subject was given a detailed explanation of the study, they would not be able to fully appreciate the psychological stress that may result from it, whereas the experimenter may have a fair idea of what could happen. So although the subject is not being deceived, I feel it would be unfair to expect them to have a real understanding. I feel a great deal of thought and respect needs to be given to the subjects own life after the experiment, and to any consequences that may occur from it. I understand that this may be unavoidable if the experimenter himself is unaware of any extreme psychological reactions.

With regard to the Hofling experiment, I do believe this to be unethical as the subject was unaware that an experiment was taking place and therefore gave no consent. Although no

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