Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Power of Words Pt. 3

I've discussed how words can build people up and tear them down, and how words do influence us and others in this post and this post. Now lets take a look at authority and how having a position of authority gives your words more power. Furthermore, think about how that power can be wielded for good or bad as you watch this video:

I don't know about you, but this experiment brought up a number of questions. One of the first ones was how our recognition of authority or position overrides our personal sense of right and wrong. How easily we can be cowed by the loudest, strongest, or most charismatic voices. If told to do something, should we just do it because someone says so?

There's a fine line between respecting authoritywhich is necessary for any civilized society to run efficientlyor giving someone more authority by doing what they say. Likewise, if we were in the position of authority, how tempting would it be to abuse that authority or influence and have others do what we say?

And if pressed, would we have the moral courage to stand up against someone else when asked to do something we inwardly know is wrong?

I thought mostly of dystopian novels while watching this video, but I think there are several lessons here that writers of all genres could expound on and use. What did you get from it?


  1. Wow. That was a compelling experiment. It explains a lot of things (e.g. cults, the Nazis, North Korea, etc.), like how average, normal people can be easily turned into weapons, if you may, when persuaded the right way, or when they perceive that it--whatever "it" is--is for the good of all. Scary.

    1. Yes, very scary. And even scarier when you think about whethr or not you'd follow orders or not if faced with a similar situation.

  2. I remember learning about the Milgram experiments in college! So scary. But so true! There's a certain percentage of the population that enjoys having that kind of power over others. Very disturbing.

    There was a study at Stanford in the 1970s, a prison experiment, where they assigned roles to two groups of students: the prisoners and the guards. The prisoners were given a set of rules, and the guards were given certain powers. A few of the guards got all crazy and power trippy and were making the prisoners (who were really just fellow college students) do crazy stuff like eat off the floor, putting them in isolation, etc.

    Very interesting!

    1. I think I saw the link for that experiment on YouTube when I was pulling up the Milgrim experiement. I'll have to check it out. It's fascinating and scary to see how people will change when given some authority.