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Obedience and Resistance to Authority

Clinical Update
By Zur Institute

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Obedience and Resistance to Authority: Developing a Clinical Understanding course (6CE)


Is the Milgram experiment on obedience to authority out-of-date or does it still have an important message for today?

  • Why did American soldiers torture Iraqi prisoners in humiliating ways at Abu Ghraib?
  • How could the country that brought us Bach and Beethoven kill millions of innocent people? Could it happen here or is it just part of the ugliness of war?
  • Was the McDonald's hoax, in which a man impersonating a police officer convinced managers to strip search innocent employees, just a horrible fluke?

Our new course argues that these events are not flukes, that they don't just happen in wartime, and that Milgram's findings four decades ago are just as relevant today as then.

Our Online Course on Obedience and Resistance to Authority was authored by Sharon Presley, Ph.D., a social psychologist who specializes in obedience and resistance to authority. Her dissertation on political resisters to authority was chaired by Dr. Stanley Milgram, author of Obedience to Authority. Dr. Presley is the author of the forthcoming book, Standing Up to Experts and Authorities: How to Avoid Being Manipulated, Intimidated and Abused, to be published by Solomon Press in 2010.

Dr. Presley has focused this course on the reasons why people obey or resist unjust authority. Whether in the context of war or just in ordinary everyday life, many people have trouble standing up to experts and authorities. Using this knowledge, clinicians can help clients become more cognizant of the ways they may be "seduced" by situations and authorities. Using this information can help clients become less vulnerable to the negative influence of authorities and better able to exercise their own judgment and make the choices that are right for them.

Our new online course, Obedience and Resistance to Authority, is offered for 6 CE Credits and is designed to help clinicians deal with a problem that persists in our society, namely the inability of people to be critical of authority and resist inappropriate demands.

This course will help clinicians to:

  • Question the common idea that personality factors are the main determinants of behavior
  • Understand the impact of situational factors on ordinary behavior
  • Apply a situational analysis to inappropriately submissive behavior
  • Understand what personal characteristics may have an impact on willingness to resist unjust authority
  • Identify ways to help clients deal more effectively with authority figures
  • Suggest techniques for being appropriately critical of the demands of authority
  • Specify techniques that will help clients stand up to inappropriate or unjust authority





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Ofer Zur, Ph.D., Director

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