We would like to think we are good people, but others, like those who worked in the Nazi concentration camps, could be evil people. But, experiments show that normal, ordinary people can commit such atrocities.
Exhibit #2 – Milgram experiment
Milgram devised his psychological study to answer the popular contemporary question: “Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders?”
They predicted perhaps less than 2% of people would be willing to administer lethal levels of electric shock to another person.
The actual results showed “65 percent (26 of 40) of experiment participants administered the experiment’s final massive 450-volt shock, and all administered shocks of at least 300 volts.”
Stark authority was pitted against the subjects’ [participants’] strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects’ [participants’] ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not. The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation. Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority