Autonomy and Resistance to Authority

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Abstract.This research examines the impact of autonomy on the behavior of participants faced with an authority figure. More specifically, it examines obedience behaviors and behaviors related to subterfuge, as studied by Milgram in his work on obedience to authority. The protocol used here is a new measure of obedience and disobedience which allows us to record compliant behavior, withdrawal from the activity, and sabotage (subterfuge). A total of 105 participants, separated into groups, were asked to perform a tedious and pointless task (copy down a page from the telephone directory) after their autonomy had been assessed using Beck's Sociotropy-Autonomy Scale. Only one participant refused to participate. The results show that autonomy is associated with disobedience. This study suggests that individuals faced with an authority figure show greater freedom than has been suggested by previous experiments, producing less visible forms of disobedience than the refusal to participate. The nature of the measure of obedience is discussed, particularly because of the role of attention in the activity.

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