As a horror writer who frequently writes about people thrust into a survival situation, I’m interested in the psychology of people under stress, with research leading me to fascinating studies such as Milgram’s Experiment, “Obedience.”
In 1961, Yale University psychologist Stanley Milgram began a series of experiments to study the willingness of ordinary people to obey an authority figure, even when that authority orders them to perform acts that conflict with their conscience and moral sense of right and wrong.
In the experiment, the participant was instructed to administer shocks to a man who answered questions wrong. This person, of course, was an actor. Milgram found that 65% of experiment participants administered an increasing series of electric shocks to a stranger, including the final 450V shock, even though they were obviously uncomfortable doing so. Only one participant refused to administer shocks below the 300V level.
Below is part 1 of a documentary about the experiments.
During an apocalyptic event, many, if not most, people will be looking to authority figures to tell them what to do in the belief that doing so will enable them to survive.