Milgram's initial interest in obedience was sparked by the trial of Adolf Eichmann (1961) for war crimes. Eichmann had been in charge of the Nazi death camps and his defence was that he was only obeying orders. This led Milgram to propose that obedience to destructive authority occurs because a person doesn't take responsibility. Instead they believe that they're acting for someone else, i.e, that they are an 'agent'. An agent is someone who acts in place of another, they experience very high anxiety when they realise that what they're doing is wrong but feel powerless to obey.


The opposite of being in an agentic state, Autonomy means to be independent or to be free. So a person in an autonomous state is free to behave according to their own principles so they feel responsibility for their actions. The shfit from autonomy to 'agency' is called the agentic shift. Milgram (1974) suggested that this occurs when a person percieves someone else as a figure of authority. This other person has greater power because of their position in the social hierarchy. In most social groups when one person is in charge, others defer to this person and switch from autonomy to agency.


Milgram then raised a queston of why does the individual remain in the agentic sate if they know it is wrong. Milgram had observed that many of his participant's had spoke as if they wanted to quit but seemed unable to do so. The answer is binding factors, aspects of the situation that allow the person to ignore the damaging effect of their behaviour and reduce the moral strain that they are feeling.  Milgram proposed a number of strategies that the individual uses, such as shifting the responsibility to the victim or


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