Obedience to authority refers to the act of following orders or instructions from someone in a position of authority. Psychologists are particularly interested in situations in which people obey orders to perform an act they believe to be wrong. Much of the research on obedience to authority has been conducted with an eye to understanding morally questionable acts, and the findings have been used to explain atrocious events such as the Holocaust. However, the research also has implications for everyday situations, such as following questionable orders from physicians or airline pilots.


The first systematic effort by a social psychologist to study obedience to authority was conducted by Stanley Milgram in the early 1960s. Milgram's obedience studies are arguably the most well-known research in social psychology, both ...

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