Agency Theory (Milgram)

  • Obedience is learnt through socialisation.
  • Humans are always in one of two states: agency and autonomy
  • Agency = Obeying an authority figure, and therefore seeing themselves as an agent of the authority figure.
  • Autonomy = Being in control of your own actions, having your own free will.
  • By default, we’re in an autonomous stage, but when given an instruction by a (perceived or actual) legitimate authority figure, we switch to an agentic state. This is called agentic shift. The responsibility for our actions moves to the authority figure.
  • When told to do something against your morals, moral strain occurs. This is when a person feels uncomfortable or distressed when being told to do something by an authority figure.
  • You can remove moral strain by either dissenting or obeying as moral strain is felt when the person is contemplating their choices.


(+) Milgram’s experiments.


Social Impact Theory ()