Agentic Personality
An agent: a mouthpiece of conformity.

There have been many experiments that show how easily we conform, out of fear and hope, and so we lose control of our lives. We rely on others’ ideas and forsake our own conscience.

Once we conform, we find it difficult not to conform, as the Milgram experiment confirms. This was an experiment to show that most of us would apply pain to others if told to do so by someone in a ‘uniform’, in this case a white coat.

It was devised by Milgram after watching the Adolf Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, where Eichmann claimed he was only following orders.

The agentic personality is one that holds on to conformity, revealing “the banality of evil”.

I would never do that!”
Oh, really?

Milgram wrote of the agentic personality: “The essence of obedience consists in the fact that a person comes to view themselves as the instrument for carrying out another person’s wishes, and they therefore no longer see themselves as responsible for their actions. Once this critical shift of viewpoint has occurred in the person, all of the essential features of obedience follow.”

I would never do that!”
Oh, really?

A new Milgram-like experiment published in the Journal of Personality has taken this idea to the next step by trying to understand which kinds of people are more or less willing to obey these kinds of orders. What researchers discovered was surprising: 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.

People who were normally friendly followed orders because they didn’t want to upset others, while those who were described as ‘unfriendly’ stuck up for themselves.” Eileen Shim on the study published in The Journal of Personality.

So, the conclusion here is that those generally considered to have an anti-social, disagreeable disposition were more prone to act in a pro-social manner.

Professor Stanley Milgram: It may be that we are puppets — puppets controlled by the strings of society. But at least we are puppets with perception, with awareness. And perhaps our awareness is the first step to our liberation.”

Do we really all want to be one?
There are always strings attached!

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  1. crestedduck says:

    It should be taken as a compliment to be considered by the mass populous as “unfriendly and anti-social and different “, as the relative truth of this appears to be a negative personality trait, in reality the absolute truth is that I should take it as a personal accomplishment and a compliment to have a “pro-social propensity and disposition”.

  2. su says:

    Amen. I have a degree in social psychology and what you wrote is word for word what I want to say these days. Thank you.

  3. Aisling Kelledia says:

    Thank you for an excellent post. I myself used to be overly agreeable, having been raised Catholic and later entering a convent for several years. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown what my parents used to call “a backbone” and understand the value of discriminating awareness towards personal and social advancement.

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