The Psychology of Authority
In this chapter, I review some evidence from psychology and history, both about the attitudes and behavior of those who are subject to others’ (alleged) authority and about the attitudes and behavior of those who are in positions of authority. These findings are fascinating in their own right. They also bear, in at least two important ways, on the skepticism about political authority defended in this book. For one thing, psychological data bear on the question of how much trust we should place in our intuitions about authority. For another, psychological data bear on the question of how desirable or harmful it may be to encourage skepticism about authority. In the present chapter, when I speak of ‘authorities’ and ‘authority figures’, I mean people and institutions that are socially recognized as having authority, whether or not they have genuine authority in a normative sense. ‘Positions of authority’ and ‘institutions of authority’ should be understood similarly.
KeywordsCognitive Dissonance Political Authority Authority Figure Popular Opinion Parole Officer
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