Human Nature #13: Authority Bias

In July 1961, three months after the trial of German Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann began, Stanley Milgram devised an experiment to answer the following question: How could anyone follow orders that led to such atrocities? Milgram published his findings in a Behavioral study of Obedience (1963).

The experiment involved three people: the one running the experiment, the subject of the experiment, and an actor pretending to be a second subject. The subject and the actor would both draw a slip of paper that assigned their role – either teacher or learner. However, both slips said teacher and the actor always claimed learner.

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Human Nature #10: Reciprocity

Imagine you are eating at a restaurant with a coworker. You both engage in some small talk and then the check comes. As would be expected, you both dive for it. Your coworker was a bit faster. You offer to pay, but the coworker just says you can get it next time.

You just landed a free lunch but something doesn’t feel right. You don’t like being indebted to someone even if it’s insignificant. The next day at work, your coworker asks for some help with a project. You jump at the opportunity to balance the scale.

If you can relate to this, you would be victim to the rule of reciprocity that Robert Cialdini popularized in his book Influence: They Psychology of Persuasion. If the significance of this isn’t apparent, here’s Sheldon Cooper to explain (excuse the laugh track).

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