Authority Explanatory Thesis

Select only one (1) of the following essay topics to complete: Question #1 or Question #2. Your essay should not be less than 500 words. However, there is no maximum word count. However, your essay must be at least 500 words for full points. Please give word count at the end of the essay. Be sure to include at least 3 citations and a Works Cited page. Follow example #36 “Work From a Website” on page 189 of A Writer’s Reference.

Note: Your essay and works cited page entries must only come from the following articles:
Question #1: “The Milgrim Experiment” by McLeod
Question #2: “The Power of Situations” by Ross and Nisbett
There are no outside sources for this essay. Using outside sources will result in loss of points. Remember, this essay is over explanatory synthesis of the required materials.
Stay away from using first person pronouns (I, my). Stay away from second person pronouns (you) too. Instead, you will want to express your essay without saying phrases like:

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“In my opinion”
“I think”
“I feel”
“When thinking about this topic, I”
Question #1:

Use information from “The Milgram Experiment” in an explanatory synthesis.

The Milgram experiment has been conducted many times, and researchers have come to certain conclusions about why “ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process.” Using this statement as a principle, discuss what came from these studies and suggest examples in our world today, close at home or far away, that suggest these conclusions are valid.

Use at least 3 citations and include a Works Cited page that you should format following the model in your handbook on page 189, #36, “Work From a Website”. You will have only one Works Cited entry. Essay should be at least 500 words.

Question #2:

Ross and Nisbett suggest that the “situational variable” may be the key predictor in how the person will behave in a given scenario. In a well-developed argument that draws on “The Power of Situations,” agree or disagree with Ross and Nisbett as you make the case that the key predictor of people’s behavior is either individual conscience, peer pressure, or situation.

Head your paper appropriately. You will need at least 3 citations and a Works Cited page. You will have only one Works Cited entry.


Sample Answer




A psychologist at Yale University named Stanley Milgram conducted one of the most famous experiments on obedience in psychology. The experiment which began in July of 1961 a year after the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem according to Mcleod (2017) it  was done to answer the question of whether Eichmann and his accomplices in the holocaust were just following orders or were they just accomplices of the atrocities.

The justifications by those accused of the genocide during World War 2, Nuremberg War Criminal Trials was that they did what they did out of obedience. They said they were following orders from their superiors.

Milgram set up the experiment to find out if the Germans and ordinary people were actually obedient to authoritative powers even when the tasks would be terrible.

Volunteers were selected for his experiment through newspaper advertising. One was to be a teacher and the other a learner. To determine who was who, the participants had to draw lots. The draw was fixed so that the teacher would always be a volunteer and the learner would be one of “Milgram’s confederates pretending to be a real participant” Mcleod (2017).

Mcleod (2017) writes that the teacher and the researcher went into one room containing an electric shock generator and a row of switches marked 15 volts (slight shock) to 375 volts (Danger: severe shock) to 450 volts (XXX). While the learner went to the room next door and had electrodes attached to his arms.

Milgram was interested to see how ordinary people could easily be influenced into committing atrocities just by obeying an instruction like the Germans in World war 2.

The participants selected were 40 males from the age of 20 to 50 years. Their jobs ranged from unskilled workers to professionals and they were all coming from the New Haven area. Each of them was paid 4.50 dollars for just showing up.

How the experiment worked.

They were first introduced to each other, one being a volunteer and the other a participant of the experiment who was a confederate of Milgram the experimenter. They drew straws to determine their roles in the experiment though this was fixed and the volunteer would always be the teacher and Milgrim’s confederate the learner. An actor was also hired and played the role of the experimenter dressed in a gray lab coat.


First, the learner would be strapped into an electric chair in his own room. After learning a list of word pairs given to him, the teacher tests him by naming a word and asking for its pair from a list of four possible choices. For every wrong answer given by the learner, the teacher would be told to administer an electric shock increasing the level of shock each time the learner got a wrong answer. The switches had 30 switches ranging from 15 volts which was a slight shock to 450 volts which was a dangerous or severe shock.

The learner who was one of Milgram’s confederates would mainly give wrong answers on purpose and therefore the teacher gave him an electric shock. In cases where the teacher refused to administer the shock, the experimenter who was an actor was to give a series of orders or probs to urge the teacher to continue, Milgram (1974). Some of the probs included the experimenter telling the teacher to please continue or the experiment requires that you continue or it is absolutely essential that you continue or the experiment requires that you continue.


The results of this experiment were, 65% of the volunteers or teachers in the experiment continued to the highest level. This is two-thirds of all the volunteers. All of the participants continued to administer up to 300 volts of the electric shock. This is according to Mcleod (2017).

Conclusion of the experiment.

This goes to show that a majority of people would do harmful things to others if they considered that it was their job or an authoritative figure had told them to.  In the experiment, the volunteers are ordinary people living ordinary lives and are all adults. The volunteers were all men between the ages of 20 years to 50 years and would consciously make decisions as adults. They came from different professions skilled and unskilled and still were all influenced by an authoritative figure who was only an actor.

The actor wearing a gray lab coat becomes an expert who commands these ordinary people to carry out such dangerous acts that could easily kill or main the other volunteer in the experiment. The switches were clearly marked as a slight shock, severe shock, and extremely dangerous but this did not stop the teachers to follow instructions and doing their job. None of the volunteers was threatened or harmed in any way yet two-thirds of them were willing to do their job well even if it meant hurting another volunteer whom they had met and in different circumstances could have been them.

Application of the experiment in current situations.

In the current situation, many executioners would say they are only doing their jobs when they execute prisoners without feeling any remorse or guilt. This is because they have orders from their superiors. Many soldiers at war also fully follow orders to kill, capture, torture, and bomb villages of people following orders from their superiors


In conclusion, the Milgram shock experiment proved that a majority of people would indeed become agents of terrible destruction just to do their jobs. A little probing and persuasion can make people do horrible things without much thought about the consequences.




McLeod, Saul. The Milgram Shock Experiment.(2017),

Milgram, Stanely.Obedience to Authority. (1974)

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