I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist.
Stark authority was pitted against the subjects’ strongest moral imperatives against hurting others, and, with the subjects’ ears ringing with the screams of the victims, authority won more often than not.
The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation.— Stanley Milgram
Back in 1961 a Yale psychologist named Stanley Milgram wanted to see the mechanism behind what caused seemingly well-adjusted normal people to be able to carry out often horrific authoritarian actions.
So he created an experiment to figure it out.
While I could go on for several pages explaining the Milgram Experiment, it’s probably easier for me to simply link to a good examination of it… This one seems to cover it well without a pay-wall or requiring a behavioral psychology degree: Milgram (1963) – Obedience to Authority
Once one is familiar with the Experiment, you begin to see parallels in current events… Which is why I’m pretty sure we’re living in a huge Milgram Experiment.