- The will to keep the initial promise with the experimenter and to avoid any conflict.
- The subject sees the experimenter as the lawful authority, in the angle of his socio-professional position, his probable level of education. To refuse to obey would be a serious failure with the social rules, a moral transgression. He feels a deep stress though of openly breaking with the authority.
- The prospect of rebelling and consequently, disrupting a well-defined social situation, constitutes an ordeal that many people are unable to face.
- The tendency for the individual to let himself taken up by the immediate technical aspects of his task, eclipsing the further consequences.
- The giving up of any personal responsibility by becoming the instrument of the representative of authority.
- The will to be "worthy" to the expectations of authority...
Some people consider systems set up by the society as a fully-committed entity. They deny to see the human being behind the systems and the institutions. When the experimenter says "The experiment insists on your carrying on", the subject never asks : "whose experiment?". For some people, "the Experiment" was perceived as something with a proper existence.
- The ability to psychologically justify the cruel action by devaluating the victim. Many subjects found necessary to devalue the victim "who himself attracted his punishment by his intellectual and moral deficiencies". S. Milgram reminds that the Jews' extermination was preceded by a rabid anti-semite propaganda..
- The need for continuity of the action: to carry on until the end reassures the subject about the validity of his previous behavior. It thus neutralizes his faintness feeling (his bad conscience) with respect to the initial actions with the new ones.
THIS FRAGMENTATION PROCESS INVOLVES THE SUBJECT IN A DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOR.
- The difficulty to turn convictions and values into actions.
In a way, some subjects were however opposed towards the experiment. They protested but they kept on obeying. The emotional demonstrations observed in laboratory (tremblings, nervous sniggers, evident trouble) prove that the subject is thinking of breaking the rules.
Tthe ease to deny his own responsibility when someone is just a single intermediate link in the chain of the executants in a process of destruction and when the final action is enough distant to be unknown.
- The fragmentation of the global human action allows the principal not to face with its consequences.
THE FRAGMENTATION OF THE SOCIAL ACTION IS THE MOST CHARACTERISTIC COMMON FEATURE OF THE SOCIAL ORGANIZATION OF EVIL.
The individual does not succeed in having an overall view of the situation. He thus leaves the matter in the higher authority.
Other alternative experiments showed that submission to destructive commands is dependent on the degree of proximity between the authority and the subject.
Other factors have to be taken into account in the process of obedience. The deep reasons of obedience are inherent as well to the innate structures of the individual as to the social influence to which he is submitted since he is born. S. Milgram refers to various approaches like the evolutionary thesis and the adaptation, the theory on the effects of group.
And particularly :
- The clear definition of the everybody' status to maintain the cohesion of the group..
- The proclivity of everyone to rally the group even when it is irrefutably wrong. (S. Milgram refers here to the experiments undertaken by E. Asch).
- The will to be integrated in the hierarchy, and the consequent modifications of behaviors which will ensue. What S. Milgram calls: "the agentic state". This state qualifies the individual who looks at himself as the executive agent of a foreign will, in opposition to the autonomous state in which he thinks to be liable regarding his own actions.
This process is in connection with a structure of reward. Obedience yields a reward to the individual, whereas the rebellion generally involves a punishment.
Stanley Milgram ecalls too that, among the many forms of rewards joined to unconditional submission, the most clever one consists in placing the individual in a square of the structure into he became integrated. The purpose of this "promotion" mainly aims to guarantee the continuation of the hierarchy.
- The identification of the authority to standards..
The legitimation of a social control by a justificatory ideology. "When someone is able to define the direction of an individual's life, there is just one step to define his behavior". While making an action, the subject allows the authority to decide its meaning in his place.
THIS IDEOLOGICAL ABDICATION REPRESENTS THE ESSENTIAL COGNITIVE BASIS OF OBEDIENCE..
What were the sources of stress for the subjects?
- the learner' screams causing a spontaneous reaction,
- the violation of the moral and social values inherent to sufferings on someone innocent,
- the implicit threat of reprisals by the victim, some subjects fearing that their behavior is reprehensible in the legal field,
- the duality caused by the contradiction of the commands simultaneously given by the experimenter and the learner (the victim),
- the incompatibility of the image they have about themselves during the action and the idea they make about themselves.
The stress felt by the subjects does not show the power of the authority but, on the contrary, its weakness. For some people, agentic conversion is only partial. If his integration in the system of authority was total, the subject would not feel stress by carrying out commands, even cruel.
Any sign of stress is the manifest proof of the failure of authority to convert someone into an absolute agentic state.
The capacity of persuasion of the system of authority set up in the laboratory has no possible comparison with that of the all-powerful systems like totalitarianism held by Hitler and Stalin. In these structures, the subordinates identified with their own roles.
Stanley Milgram compares the absence of conscience of the subjects during the experiment with a sleep where perceptions and reactions considerably decrease, but during which a strong stimuli can drive the individual to get off lethargy.
THE STATE PRODUCED IN LABORATORY CAN BE LIKENED TO A LIGHT DROWSINESS IN COMPARISON WITH THE NUMBNESS CAUSED BY THE ALL-POWERFUL SYSTEM OF AUTHORITY OF A GOVERNMENT.
What are the mechanisms allowing the solution of stress? ?
- The refusal to obey. But a few individuals are really able to disobey because they choose less radical and easier means to reduce their stress...
- The evasion is the most primitive mechanism. It is the most widespread because the easiest. The subject tries to dissimulate to himself the consequences of his action.
Another form of evasion consists in ignoring the victim. It aims to the psychological obliteration of the victim who is source of trouble.
- The denial of obviousness. Stanley Milgram recalls that facing an eminent death, the Jews were unable to accept the blinding reality of the genocide. In this experiment, some subjects denied the painful character of the shocks or the reality of the victim' suffering.
But the most widespread behavior during the experiment is: the denial of their own responsibility..
Above all, it is a behavior of rationalization expressible in differents ways: justification of the legitimacy of the experiment, obliteration of the victim but even "arrangements" with the commands. Some subjects used subterfuges in order to quieten down their stress decreasing delay or intensity. Others tried to let the learner know the good answer by special intonations of voice. This way to arrange the order received is only a balm to the conscience of the subject.. It is a symbolic action indicating an inability to choose one of the subject conducted in accordance with its humanitarian convictions, but that helps to preserve his image.
Other subjects expressed their disapproval while they kept on obeying to commands. Others tried to let the learner know the good answer by special intonations of voice.
D'autres sujets ont exprimé leur désaccord, tout en continuant d'appliquer les ordres.
Psychosomatic demonstrations: physical demonstrations of stress make it possible to dispose the stress.Stanley Milgram deduces from these observations the final purpose that the subjects endeavour to reach: BY REDUCING TO A BEARABLE DEGREE THE INTENSITY OF THE CONFLICT WHICH THE SUBJECT FEELS, THESE MECHANISMS ENABLE HIM TO PRESERVE HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH THE AUTHORITY..
Disobedience is the ultimate means to obliterate the stress. Disobedience is a very anxiogene action. Not only it involves the deny to carry out a command, but also the way out from the devoted role (here, devoted to the subject). That causes, on a small scale, a kind of anomie. The obedient subject rejects the responsibility of his action on the rebel. But the rebel accepts to ruin the experiment. He may have the caustic feeling to be disloyal towards science.
This process follows painful steps:
- the doubt,
- the externalization of the doubt,,
- the threat of deny to obedience,
This is a hard way. Just a minority of individuals are able to follow it until its end. S. Milgram insists on the fact it is not a negative step, but straight out a positive action. A deliberated will to go upstream.""Disobedience requires not only the mobilization of the inside resources, but still their conversion into a field located beyond the moral scruples and simple courteously-formulated objections: THE FIELD OF THE ACTION. Everybody can reach it, only at the expense of a great psychic effort"."
Stanley Milgram' conclusion :
Everyone has a conscience which, more or less effectively, channel the impetuous flood of his destructive drives. When integrated into an organisational structure, the autonomous individual let a new creature take his place: without barriers laid down by personal ethics, released from any inhibition, just concerned with the authority sanctions.
The results of experiment are disturbing to investigator. They let think that we generally cannot trust mankind -or more precisely, the kind of nature produced by the democratic society- to protect the citizens from cruelties, from crimes against humanity imposed by a spiteful authority..
In the great majority, people do what asked, without considering the nature of the stipulated action and without being curbed by their conscience since the command seems to be issued by a rightful authority.
"Should we all be potential henchmen devoted to horror?"
My conclusions :
Conscience is the main key to counter abuse of authority. For develope it and clean it of false conscience and for deploye the discernment and the solidarity in a society where a majority of people, regardless of the lies they tell to themselves, in their hearts, aspire to peace and harmony.
An architectural design whose visibility is a trap, a machine to create and sustain a power relation independent of the one who has, prisoners taken in a position of power they are themselves the bearers...
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(Page created: October 15, 2002, republished June 9, 2011)
Raccourcits documentation :
Conscience et Ethique - Droits de l'homme - Edgar Morin : Ethique et Bibliographie - Michel Crozier : l'Acteur et le Système - Stanley Milgram : Soumission à l'Autorité - Obedience to Authority, Stanley Milgram - Manipulation Mentale - Harcèlement Moral et/ou harcèlement Sexuel - La stratégie du choc - Réseaux et/de pouvoir - Stratégie - Cinéma, Films, vidéos -
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