In the 1960s, Stanley Milgram, a Yale psychologist, conducted experiments on destructive obedience to authority. The aim of the experiment was to understand the extent to which people would be prepared to obey an instruction, if it involved harming another person. Could ordinary people be influenced into committing atrocities, similar to the Germans in WWII?
In 2006, Derren Brown used the Milgram experiment as part of his process to select contestants for a British television show, The Heist.
If the experiment were to be carried out today, would participants have the same level of obedience to authority?
During a Nazi rally on June 13, 1936, August Landmesser was the lone dissenter in a crowd, who refused to perform the Sieg Heil salute.
Over the years, there would have been many people who have looked at this, now famous, photo and thought that they, too, would not have complied with the salute. They, too, would have bravely defied the mandatory requirement by all German citizens to show their loyalty to the Führer, his Reich, and his ambitions.
They would have stood there, surrounded by a throng of Nazi Party members, and refused to raise a stiff right arm.
What we think we would do, may stem from our ideals or principles on what should be the correct action to be taken, in a particular situation. What we actually do when in similar circumstances, may turn out to be quite different.
What are the beliefs and values that we hold as important?
Do we possess the courage of our convictions?