Defying Unjust Authority: An Exploratory Study

P. Bocchiaro, P.G. Zimbardo

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    This research explores the psychological factors potentially involved in fostering disobedience to an unjust authority. Our paradigm was modeled after that of the Utrecht Studies on Obedience (Meeus and Raaijmakers European Journal of Social Psychology 16:311-324, 1986) in which participants are ordered to give each of 15 increasingly hostile comments to a participant/victim whenever he fails a trial. Although 30% of our sample followed commands to insult the other participant (confederate), the majority did refuse to do so at some point in the escalating hostility sequence. Our procedure utilized conditions known from prior research to increase the ratio of disobedience to obedience: proximity of teacher to learner plus remote authority. In order to better understand some of the cognitive and affective processes that may predict such defiant behaviour, we utilized a variety of measures, among them, behavioural observations, individual difference assessments, and in depth post-experimental interviews. © 2010 The Author(s).
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)155-170
    JournalCurrent Psychology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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