The Milgram experiment, first published in 1963, studied participants' willingness to obey authority against their moral principles. That is, would someone "just obey orders" to inflict injury on another person? Definitely worth a skim on wikipedia if this is the first you're hearing about it.
One of the experiment's most interesting revelations concerned the effectiveness of the authority figure's "prods". If the subject didn't want to give another shock, the experimenter would prod them on with one of these lines:
- Please continue or Please go on.
- The experiment requires that you continue.
- It is absolutely essential that you continue.
- You have no other choice; you must go on.
I like that Milgram used the word "prod" like the subjects were some kind of cattle. Anyways, #4 was the least effective. But why? Again, quoting the Wikipedia article, as retrieved 2022-02-19.
Based on an examination of Milgram's archive, in a recent study, social psychologists Alexander Haslam, Stephen Reicher and Megan Birney, at the University of Queensland, discovered that people are less likely to follow the prods of an experimental leader when the prod resembles an order...
I think they're on to something here... but then they go on:
... However, when the prod stresses the importance of the experiment for science (i.e. "The experiment requires you to continue"), people are more likely to obey. The researchers suggest the perspective of "engaged followership": that people are not simply obeying the orders of a leader, but instead are willing to continue the experiment because of their desire to support the scientific goals of the leader and because of a lack of identification with the learner.
Listen, researchers: I'm not so sure that the participants are as excited about science as you think they are. Willing to overcome their own moral premises for the precision of your research? I doubt it. More likely to me is that the passive tense is simply not perceived as an order and nobody likes to be told what to do.
Of the 4 prods, 3 are passive tense and 1 is an order. Grammatically speaking, one of these things is not like the others. And that one is "You have no choice... you must". It could be that hearing the active tense causes the subject to realize a responsibility for their action. As in, that "they are pushing the button", as opposed to "the button is being pushed". That may be part of it, but I also think that when ordinary citizens are given an order, it's a major red flag to their psyche. To a citizen accustomed to freedom and choice, being told what to do, even for science, feels like being backed into a corner.
I say "ordinary citizens" because it's very important to note that Milgram tested civilians and not soldiers. Soldiers have been trained to follow orders, because a soldier that thinks twice is a bad soldier. Much of basic training is teaching free men to be slaves: property of the government that must obey its orders. At least until they get out of the service. I'm against war in general, but if there is war, an obedient army is requisite. I digress. Point is, it is normal for civilians to resist orders. At least that's my interpretation of Milgram's "prods".
Musa al-Gharbi wrote a great opinion piece outlining why people don't want to get the vaccine. You can't read that well-sourced piece and not understand the skepticism. There are a lot of problems, especially with the government's dissemination of information. I've personally met an unvaccinated nurse who "just didn't know what was in it." How come I know what's in it and this nurse doesn't? And why would anyone take something without knowing whats in it, or seeing the facts?
Amid a flood of misinformation, some of it seeming to come from the government itself, people just don't know what to do. So it's clear to me that the government should be investing in spreading information and answering peoples' real questions. Make PSAs. Put up posters. Hold town halls with panels of local doctors and scientists to answer peoples' questions live. Put Dr. Fauci on dancing with the stars! That last one won't combat misinfo, but we all want to see it.
No, the administration did none of these things. Instead, Biden seems to have taken a play from Milgram's playbook of what not to do. By mandating vaccines, he went for the vinegar instead of the honey. He pushed in exactly the way that makes normal civilians push back.
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