There was a recent example of the continuing tendency towards blind obedience in the USA when a con man, dubbed "the modern Milgram", made the staff of dozens of fast-food restaurants behave in an appalling fashion simply by ringing up and pretending to be a policeman.
He persuaded managers to strip-search their staff in search of stolen goods, to make them jog naked, even to strip off and appear naked in front of startled customers. One manager, who strip-searched an employee and was subsequently jailed, said, "I didn't want to do it, but it was like he was making me".
Milgram once wrote that we are "puppets controlled by the strings of society". Yet what is also true is that not all puppets jump when their strings are pulled. Many of the fast-food managers who were rung up the "policeman" refused to follow his orders. In Milgram's own experiment, although 65 per cent of the volunteers were prepared to give apparently lethal electric shocks, that still left 35 per cent who would not.
What no experimenter has yet been able to predict are the characteristics that mark out those who will rebel from the rest. The only way you will ever know how you measure up is when you find yourself tested. You have a one in three chance of passing.
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