Back in the 1960s a Yale professor, Stanley Milgram, conducted some unnerving experiments that showed 65% of us were quite capable of some very questionable acts when directed by what we see as an authority figure.
Michael Mosley has re-acquainted us with the Work of Milgram as well as that of Charles Hofling in the Independent.
Both experiments seem to show how close we all are to a blind obedience to authority, even if it means physical harm to others.
Mosley also managed to track down one of the guinea pigs for the Milgram tests who had been asked to 'administer' potentially lethal electrical shocks to what he believed was another volunteer. The guinea pig, Bill Menold, was very open and frank when interviewed about why he had gone on to give what he thought at the time was a lethal electric shock. "You are sitting in that chair with this stuff going on and that pressure that you were under, it's very hard to think clearly. I've never had anything before or since that was like that. Where you were literally out of your mind" he said.
Then Mosley points to the test by Hofling where nurses were asked over the phone ( a big no-no) to administer a drug unknown to them with a dose that exceeded the maximum on the bottle to patients and that the doctor would do the paperwork later. 21 of the 22 nurses bowed to the authority of the 'Doctor' and would have followed the instructions if they had not been stopped.
Mosley goes on to show other ways in which people can be made to do things which they maybe don't want to or would not do in more familiar surroundings. It is also good news that professionals are given training in this area so as to prevent misuse of the techniques.
It is also well worth remembering that all around you every day someone is trying to condition you to either obey the law, to buy something or follow a brand. And this all starts at a very early age.
Milgram was not a one experiment wonder. He is also the brains behind the 'Small World Phenomenon' (from which the 6 degrees of separation concept originates), The lost letter experiment to show how helpful people really are and the TV versus anti-social behaviour experiment.
Bear in mind that we all would like to think that we could not be manipulated by such mind control techniques, but when push came to shove 65% of us were!