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RC Passage Doubt: Please help

This topic has 1 member reply
karishma315 Junior | Next Rank: 30 Posts Default Avatar
27 Apr 2016
25 messages

RC Passage Doubt: Please help

Post Fri Jan 27, 2017 12:58 am
The person who, with inner conviction, loathes stealing, killing, and
assault, may find himself performing these acts with relative ease when
commanded by authority. Behaviour that is unthinkable in an individual
who is acting of his own volition may be executed without hesitation
when carried out under orders. An act carried out under command is,
psychologically, of a profoundly different character than spontaneous

The important task, from the standpoint of a psychological study of
obedience, is to be able to take conceptions of authority and translate
them into personal experience. It is one thing to talk in abstract terms
about the respective rights of the individual and of authority; it is quite
another to examine a moral choice in a real situation. We all know about
the philosophic problems of freedom and authority. But in every case
where the problem is not merely academic there is a real person who
must obey or disobey authority. All musing prior to this moment is mere
speculation, and all acts of disobedience are characterized by such a
moment of decisive action.

When we move to the laboratory, the problem narrows: if an
experimenter tells a subject to act with increasing severity against
another person, under what conditions will the subject comply, and under
what conditions will he disobey? The laboratory problem is vivid, intense,
and real. It is not something apart from life, but carries to an extreme
and very logical conclusion certain trends inherent in the ordinary
functioning of the social world. The question arises as to whether there is
any connection between what we have studied in the laboratory and the
forms of obedience we have so often deplored throughout history. The
differences in the two situations are, of course, enormous, yet the
difference in scale, numbers, and political context may be relatively
unimportant as long as certain essential features are retained.
To the degree that an absence of compulsion is present, obedience is
coloured by a cooperative mood; to the degree that the threat of force or
punishment against the person is intimated, obedience is compelled by
fear. The major problem for the individual is to recapture control of his
own regnant processes once he has committed them to the purposes of
others. The difficulty this entails represents the poignant and in some
degree tragic element in the situation, for nothing is bleaker than the
sight of a person striving yet not fully able to control his own behaviour in
a situation of consequence to him.

The essence of obedience is the fact that a person comes to view
himself as the instrument for carrying out another‘s wishes, and he
therefore no longer regards himself as culpable for his actions. Once this
critical shift of viewpoint has occurred, all of the essential features of
obedience-the adjustment of thought, the freedom to engage in cruel
behaviour, and the types of justification experienced by the person
(essentially similar whether they occur in a psychological laboratory or on
the battlefield)-follow. The question of generality, therefore, is not
resolved by enumerating all of the manifest differences between the
psychological laboratory and other situations, but by carefully constructing a situation that captures the essence of obedience-a situation in which a person gives himself over to authority and no longer
views himself as the cause of his own actions.


In the context of the points being made by the author in the passage, the
phrase ―absence of compulsion- (line 36) refers to:

A. the lack of punishment in psychological experiments.
B. obedience that is willingly given to one‘s superior.
C. the freedom to disobey the orders of those in authority.
D. one‘s ability to consider the moral implications of an act.
E. having the free will to do what one wants

2. Which of the following findings would serve to most WEAKEN the author‘s
claim in the passage about obedience to authority?

A. A study that concludes that most obedience to authority is motivated
by fear
B. A study that demonstrates that most authority figures in government
behave immorally
C. A study that shows that most people do not have strongly held ethical
D. A study that asserts that people with a college education are less
likely to obey authority figures than those with only a high school
E. A study that proves that fear is an overriding emotion for most human


In 1st question they are asking meaning of "absence of compulsion" so shouldn't that mean that there is no punishment

In 2nd,I am not able to understand how they came up to it

Karishma Duggal

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elias.latour.apex Master | Next Rank: 500 Posts
20 Apr 2017
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Post Thu Apr 20, 2017 5:07 am
Dear Karishma,

Yes, it's true that "absence of compulsion" means absence of force used to require someone to do something. In that sense, yes, a punishment is one form of compulsion. From this, it's understandable that someone might consider answer choice A. However, answer choice A is the kind of answer that we call "half-right and half-wrong." The second part of the answer choice, which says in psychological experiments, unnecessarily limits the scope of the answer. Fundamentally, we are talking about not psychological experiments but the real world in which people, who presumably have certain moral or ethical strictures, commit antisocial acts when ordered to do so by someone in authority. Accordingly, A is not the best answer. When obedience is given without compulsion, it is given voluntarily. B is a better answer.

As for the second question, first we must identify the main point of the article. The author's opinion, which is stated in the first paragraph, is that people who have inner conviction against committing immoral acts often find it relatively easy to do so when ordered to. The author believes that this occurs because the act is of a profoundly different psychological character. In making this claim, the author is assuming that the people in question have strongly held ethical beliefs that are somehow overridden by orders from authority. Answer choice C, which indicates that people generally do not have strongly held ethical values, attacks the assumption that underlies the reasoning and best weakens the argument.

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