How Communities Shape Our Morals
As a social primate species, we modulate our morals with signals from family, friends and social groups with whom we identify because in our evolutionary past those attributes helped individuals to survive and reproduce. We do not just blindly concede control to authorities; instead we follow the cues provided by our moral communities on how best to behave.
The power of identification is emphasized in a reinterpretation of Stanley Milgram’s shock experiments in a 2012 article in Perspectives on Psychological Science by University of St. Andrews psychologist Stephen D. Reicher, University of Queensland psychologist S. Alexander Haslam and University of Exeter psychologist Joanne R. Smith. They call their paradigm “identification-based followership,” noting that “participants’ identification with either the experimenter and the scientific community that he represents or the learner and the general community that he represents” better explains the willingness of subjects to shock (or not) learners at the bidding of an authority.