“Blood-Cement”: Does Liking For and Compliance To Authority Increase After Killing? (2011)
AuthorsRichardson, Michael Noelshow all
It is a common observation that organizations of violence make use of moral transgression to bond new recruits to the group’s authority figures and to encourage compliance to them. The present study drew on the work of Festinger (1957), Aronson and Mills (1959) and Martens et al. (2007) and, for the first time examined this observation empirically. It was hypothesized that when participants agreed to make a moral transgression for the experimenter that they would come to view him more positively, see him as more professional and become more compliant to him, and that this would happen even more when that choice to comply was made salient. Participants were asked to place a number of bugs into a modified coffee grinder that ostensibly exterminated the bugs and then to activate the device. No bugs were killed in any condition, but participants were either led to believe that they were killing the bugs or informed that it was just a simulation. Subsequent positivity in the perception of the experimenter and how professional they considered him to be was then measured by questionnaire and compliance to him was measured in an optional data-entry task. Results yielded partial support for the research hypotheses suggesting that at least under some circumstances, agreeing to make a personal moral transgression for an authority figure leads to increases in the positivity in the perception of that figure and compliance to him and that making that choice salient enhances this effect. The implications of this finding for the understanding of the processes by which a person can become bonded to unsavory authority-figures and potential applications to community education programs are discussed; as are the limitations of this study and possibilities for future research.