Agent state and Legitimacy of authority

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  • Agentic state and Legitimacy of authority
    • The Agentic state
      • Obedient individual sees themselves as not being responsible for their own actions
        • Put the responsibility on someone else particular someone with authority
          • Milgram described this as the agent shift
            • Involves moving from an autonomous state to agent state
              • Autonomous state is where an individual sees themselves as responsible for their actions
      • Individual sees themselves as an agent carrying out another persons wishes
      • Self image and the agent state:
        • Individuals may adopt the agent state to maintain a positive self image
      • Binding factors:
        • Social etiquette plays a part in regulating behaviour
        • Emotions  help bind the subject into obedience
    • Legitimacy of authority
      • Someone who is perceived to be in a position of social control has legitimate authority
      • First condition for an individual to shift to the agent state
      • Experimenter in Milgrams study
      • The Definition of the Situation:
        • There is a tendency for people to accept definitions of a situation that are provided by a legitimate authority
          • Experimenter in Milgrams study made the PP's fell that the learner was fine
      • Legitimate authority requires an institution:
        • If an authority figure's commands are of a potentially harmful or destructive form, then for them to be perceived a legitimate they must occur within some sort of institutional structure
        • It is possible that the category of institution rather than its level of status within the category that cause PP's to obey
    • Evaluation
      • The agent state explanation and real life obedience:
        • Milgram claimed that people shift back and forth between the autonomous and agent state
          • Fails to explain the gradual and irreversible transition found by Lifton that doctors had changed from ordinary  medical professionals into men and women carrying out vile and lethal experiment on prisoners
            • Staub suggest that it is the constant act of evil over a long time that changed the way the individuals think and behaved
      • Agent state or just plain cruel?:
        • Common belief that the PP's in the Stanford prison experiment had detected signs of cruelty who used the situation to express their sadistic impulses
          • In just a few day the guards had inflicted cruelty on the submissive prisoners rapidly
      • Legitimate authority explanation and real life obedience:
        • Legitimacy can serve as the bias for justifying the harming of others
          • If people authorise another person to make judgements for them about what is  appropriate they no longer feel that their own moral value are relevant to their conduct
      • The agent state as loss of personal control:
        • Fennis and Arts suggest that the process of agent shift is not confined to obedience to authority but extends from other forms of social influenece
          • Reason for agent shift is a reduction in an individual's experience of personal control
          • They demonstrated that a reduction in personal control resulted not only in greater obedience to authority but also in the tendency to remain passive in the presence of unresponsive others when faced with emergency and greater compliance with behavioural requests
      • Obedience in the cockpit - a test of legitimate authority:
        • Tarnow provided support for the power of legitimate authority through a study of aviation accident
          • He studied data from a US NTSB of all aircraft accidents between 1978 and 1990 where a flight voice recorder was available and where the crew where a contributing factor to the crash
            • Found excessive dependence on the captains authority "the captain must know what they are doing"


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