Obedience is the process which leads a person – or an animal -, after listening to an order or a demand from an authoritative fgure, to obey regardless of the consequences or moral implications derived from following that order or demand. The way in which this demand is followed can very; it can be in an active manner, in this case the obedient individual will do what they are told to; or in a passive one, where the individual will refrain from doing something, for the only reason that it has been forbidden to them.
Obedience is the subordination of one’s will to authority. An authoritative figure can be a person or a group of persons, as well as our own conscience, but also an ideology or, for religious people, God. However, who or what is demanding obedience, is not the only factor that influences obedience levels; there are other external factors which also have a great influence on them. One of these factors can be the presence of other peers in a situation where obedience is being demanded. For example, in Steven Rank ; Cardell Jacobson’s replication of the
Hofling Experiment (1966) in 1977, nurses who were allowed to consult to whether give an overdose of an unknown drug to a patient to other nurses, showed much lower levels of obedience than those nurses who were not allowed to consultation in the Hofling Experiment (Class Hand-out: Hofling Experiment (1966), p. 3). Another external factor which can influence obedience behaviour is whether the authoritative figure is wearing a uniform. The Bickman Experiment (1974), where 153 participants were asked to obey a different order in three different scenarios, proved the impact f uniforms on obedience behaviours.
Participants were asked in all three situations to do something by men wearing civilian clothes, a milkman’s uniform, or a guard’s uniform, and in all three scenarios the levels of obedience were highest when being asked by the man in the guard’s uniform (Class Hand-out: A study into the effects of uniform, pp. 1-2). Therefore, it can be said that not only authoritative fgures determine our obedience behaviour, but also what the factors and circumstances around us are and what impact they have on us. The Hofling Experiment The Hofling Experiment took place in Midwest America on 1966 and it was conducted by Charles Hofling.
The studys main aims were to investigate the professional relationship between nurses and doctors in hospitals, focusing on how the former react when asked to do something against hospitals rules by the latter. The experiment also studied to what extent nurses were self-aware of their obedience behaviour towards doctors. Three hospitals were involved in the study; the experiment was conducted in two of them, while the third one served as control. It nvolved 22 participants within the same scope of sex, age, race, working experience, work department and type of contract.
Each nurse received a phone call from an unknown doctor, who asked them to give a 20mg dose of a drug unknown to them called Astroten. The phone call took place during visiting hours, when there are not doctors in the wards to be consulted. The doctor, who was actually the researcher, claimed to be a psychiatrist who was running late and the drug needed to be administrated urgently; he said he would sign the pertinent authorization when arriving at hosp tal The bottle in the ward containing the Astroten had glucose capsules instead of real drugs, and a label advising not to administer more than 10mg per patient.
The fake doctor used the same script for every call to make sure that there were not additional factors influencing the outcome of the experiment. All conversations were recorded, and all of them were to finish if the nurse followed the doctors instructions, refused to administer the drug, left the phone to find advice, became upset or the call went over a pre-set period often minutes. If the nurse omplied with the instructions, a real doctor taking part in the study would stop her and debrief her not longer than 30 minutes from the phone call.
Nurses were offer psychiatric consul if required after the experiment. They were also interviewed during which a recording of the interview was played for them. In the control hospital, 12 nurses and 21 student nurses were asked to fill a questionnaire asking what they would do in the same scenario as the nurses from the two hospitals. The results showed that 21 out of the 22 nurses complied with the doctor’s instructions. of them went to give the medicine after little questioning of the doctor’s authority; 11 admitted that they knew about the dosage limit, while the remaining 10 said not to have noticed, but said that it was probably not dangerous to exceed the dosage if a doctor requested it. Although most of them admitted that they should have acted differently, 1 5 of them said that complying with doctors’ orders without questioning was a common practice. 31 nurses from the control group said that they would have acted differently to their colleagues from the other two hospitals.
The conclusions from the experiment are that nurses will comply with doctors’ orders, even if they know that are proceeding against hospital policy, or even putting patients’ lives at risk. The experiment has high ecological validity, for it was performed without the nurses’ knowledge, therefore their actions can be regarded as genuine. The survey done at the control hospital demonstrates the differences between what the nurses thought they would do and what they actually would do; thus, reinforcing the validity of the experiment.
However, it is debateable whether the experiment is applicable to other cultures or societies, since it can be argued that people in the USA at the time of the study were more likely to obey, due to the social context, than people from other cultures. The experiment succeeded in depicting the nature of the nurse/ doctor relationship; however, it was conducted in a very specific scenario, where nurses could not consult with other colleagues or superiors, and had no knowledge of what medication they were to administer, both of which can subtract some validity o the experiment.
Finally, another reason for criticism is that the study was conducted without the nurses’ consent, and although their lack of knowledge was crucial for the success of it, that does not Justify the possible psychological damage that deceiving the nurses could have caused them, like shame or uncertainty of their professionalism (Class Hand-out: Hofling Experiment (1966), pp. 1-4). Bibliography Class Hand-out: Hofling Experiment (1966) Class Hand-out: A study into the effects of uniform.