December 5th, 2015| Topic: RaMbLeS | 0


Stanley Milgram (1933–1984), American social psychologist, is best known for analyzing connectedness—the “six degrees of separation” that links all humans. But while teaching at Yale in the 1960s, he also conducted some notorious experiments on obedience. Jewish, himself, he was perturbed by how lower level Nazis, during the Holocaust, could perform acts of great cruelty and inhumanity in blind obedience to orders from above.

Students in his experiments were ordered to administer increasing levels of electric shock to other volunteers. But unbeknownst to the students, the shocks were fake and the volunteers were actors pretending to be hurt. Two-thirds of the students obeyed, without any concern for the “shocked” volunteers, even when the latter cried in pain.

Writing about this, Nitin Nohria, dean of Harvard’s Business School, who’s been lecturing on Milgram’s experiments for a decade, noted:

When I ask students whether, as participants, they would have had the courage to stop administering shocks, at least two thirds raise their hands, even though only one third of Milgram’s subjects refused. I’ve come to refer to this gap between how people believe they would behave and how they actually behave as ‘moral overconfidence.’ In the lab, in the classroom and beyond, we tend to be less virtuous than we think we are.”

“Moral overconfidence.” We think we are more virtuous than we actually are. When push comes to shove, many of us morally overconfident “virtuous ones” will capitulate.

Not us, we think. We’re above average … the vast majority of us!

A recent study showed that 96% of cancer patients in a hospital claim to be in better health than the average cancer patient. 93% of motorists consider themselves to be safer-than-average drivers. 90% students see themselves as more intelligent than the average student. 94% of college professors said they are better-than-average teachers. Oh, and 92% said they are less biased than average, too.

And we—we’d always perform virtuously. “Moral overconfidence.”

Added Nohria:

Moral overconfidence is in line with what studies find to be our generally inflated view of ourselves. We rate ourselves as above-average drivers, investors and employees, even though math dictates that can’t be true for all of us. We also tend to believe we are less likely than the typical person to exhibit negative qualities and to experience negative life events: to get divorced, become depressed or have a heart attack.”

Nohra recommends a healthy dose of “moral humility.” And that’s biblical, you know.

I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think;
but to think so as to have sound judgment ….
Romans 12:3

After all, that sinful principle called the “flesh” still remains with us, even if we are believers. That entity is irredeemable and incorrigible and will be with us till we die.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.
Galatians 5:16–17

Moral humility.

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.
1 Corinthians 10:12

“Moral humility,” that rests in God’s grace through Christ that empowers us to follow the leading of the Spirit rather than that of the flesh, to be holy as God is holy, fulfilling his commandments.

God sent His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin …
so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us,
who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
Romans 8:3–4

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