Most people will do as they’re told, no matter how distasteful or immoral. From Jeff Thomas at internationalman.com:
In 1961, Nazi executioner Adolf Eichmann was brought to trial for war crimes in Israel. At that time, there was worldwide discussion as to whether such a man could possibly be found not guilty, under the claim that he was “just following orders.”
Was it possible that mankind, generally, is so devoid of conscience that people in positions of control would simply follow orders, if someone in greater authority “took responsibility” for the outcome of the instruction?
This question led Yale Psychologist Stanley Milgram to create a number of psychological experiments on people’s willingness to follow the instruction of authority figures that conflicted with their own conscience.
The experiments were simple. Average people, from a variety of walks in life, were asked to participate. The participant – the “teacher” – was requested to ask multiple choice questions of a “learner”, who had ostensibly been hooked up to an electric generator. If the learner provided the wrong answer, the teacher was to press a button, giving the learner an electric shock. (Although the learner was actually an actor and, in fact, received no shock, the teacher didn’t know that.) With each additional wrong answer, the “shock level” was increased until a “fatal” shock was induced by the teacher.