Destructive Obedience Without Pressure: Beyond the Limits of the Agentic State

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Studies on obedience to authority highlight the power of the situation by showing how an experimental setting can trap participants and force them to commit acts contrary to their values (Bocchiaro & Zimbardo, 2010). The source of obedience has generally been represented by an institutional scientific authority. In the present experiment, we tested a more widespread form of authority: a managerial authority implemented in the form of an administrative violence paradigm (Meeus & Raaijmakers, 1986). Specifically, we compared two forms of authority: obedience to authority as manipulated by Meeus and Raaijmakers (1986), where the requests are made in an authoritarian manner, and compliance without pressure, where the participant is told that he is free to do what is requested (Enzle & Harvey, 1982). The results illustrate that a substantial level of obedience can be elicited even in the absence of explicit authoritarian pressure.

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