A new psychology study published this month in the Journal of Personality has revealed a dark truth about the nicest and friendliest people in our society- they are probably more capable of doing the most horrific things if ordered to.
Stanley Milgram, a pioneer in social psychology, conducted his now famous 1961 experiment on how far people would actually go by simply following orders to electrically shock a stranger (an actor faking pain). Milgram found that some people would follow orders until the subject was dead.
The new study set out to find what kinds of people were more or less willing to obey these orders. According to Mic,
“Those who are described as “agreeable, conscientious personalities” are more likely to follow orders and deliver electric shocks that they believe can harm innocent people, while “more contrarian, less agreeable personalities” are more likely to refuse to hurt others.”
Over eight months of the experiment, researchers interviewed participants to gauge their social personality, personal history, as well as their political leanings. They discovered that friendly people followed orders because they didn’t want to upset anyone, while unfriendly people stuck to their beliefs. They also found that those with left-wing political views were less willing to hurt others.
Psychology Today’s Kenneth Worthy explains:
“The irony is that a personality disposition normally seen as antisocial — disagreeableness — may actually be linked to ‘pro-social’ behavior… This connection seems to arise from a willingness to sacrifice one’s popularity a bit to act in a moral and just way toward other people, animals or the environment at large. Popularity, in the end, may be more a sign of social graces and perhaps a desire to fit in than any kind of moral superiority.”
So what’s the lesson here? Don’t try to fit in with the popular sentiment and always stick to what you have always believed in. Even if people think you are a mean person, you are more likely to do the right thing.