Sunday, February 17, 2013

Mark Dice Jaywalking Experiment

I like watching Mark Dice. He's got a lot of attitude and covers some interesting topics. He recently conducted an experiment into whether or not people will break the law when told to by an authority figure:

This is obviously not new ground. In the 1960's, Stanley Milgram conducted experiments into whether or not people would inflict torture onto other people when told to by an authority figure.In many cases, the answer was yes.

The essence of these experiments was, you'd be invited to help with an experiment  I believe you'd be taken off the street. You would be told you'll be assisting in an experiment on memory. Every time the subject gets an answer wrong, you shock him. Each time he gets shocked, the voltage is higher. Sooner or later, the person is screaming "Dear GOD PLEASE MAKE IT STOP! WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME!" You look at the white coat clad researcher for reassurance, and he tells you to go ahead and shock the subject again.

What you don't realize is, the so called subject is an actor. You're the subject. The experiment revolves around you.

That's how it worked. And like Mark Dice discovered in his informal experiment, the majority of people will either break the law or harm another person IF AN AUTHORITY FIGURE TELLS THEM IT'S OK. Even a perceived authority figure.

I heard a caller on a podcast I listen to say he took part in a similar experiment. He claimed he threatened to call the cops and was then informed it was an experiment and the subject was an actor, not a man being electrocuted.

During my first experience as a manager, I learned quickly that most people are happy just to have somebody to make decisions. I was respected because I was willing to make those decisions. I managed people who were far more technically capable than I was, but they liked working for me because I wasn't afraid to make the call. Or to take responsibility for it. I would stand up in meetings and say "No, I told them to do it that way." People liked that.

Sometimes that's all leadership is. The appearance that you know what you're doing. People will follow you based on that little, whether you're telling them to add a column to a database, or leading them into traffic against a "Don't Walk" sign. Or telling them to inflict pain against a fellow human being (I've never done this).

If you find yourself in a position of leadership, DO NOT ABUSE IT. As we learned from the Nuremberg trials, people will "Just follow orders" no matter how horrific they may be.
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