The purpose of this research study is to find out whether those who conform to the "ethics of responsibility" idealism favored authority figures more rather than those who conform to the "ethics of personal conscience" idealism.



Johnson, J. A., Hogan, R., Zonderman, A. B., Callens, C., & Rogolsky, S. (1981). Moral judgment, personality, and attitudes toward authority. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 40(2), 370–373.

The purpose of this research study is to find out whether those who conform to the "ethics of responsibility" idealism favored authority figures more rather than those who conform to the "ethics of personal conscience" idealism. Their incentive was to use four concepts to represent impersonal public authority and personal private authority. They used police and government to represent public impersonal authority and mother and father to represent private personal authority. Johnson's et al. research hypothesis states that these two separate authority figures differentiate between the correlation of Hogan's Survey of Ethical Attitudes (SEA). The latter researcher's sample consisted of 43 males and 46 females who evaluated the four concepts of authority figures; police, government, mother, and father on a semantic differential scale. Each concept was assessed using ten adjective pairs: good-bad, optimistic-pessimistic, hostile-friendly, altruistic-egotistic, honest-dishonest, kind-cruel, unfair-fair, important-unimportant, worthless-valuable, and successful-unsuccessful. On the scale, subjects indicated the strength of each pair by using a rating scale from 0-4 representing how strongly they feel about each concept with 0 being unfavorable and four being favorable. The samples were studied by gender and showed the patterns are similar; therefore, they were combined. The results on the rating scale display higher ratings for police and government (.80 and .86) for impersonal authority compared to (.70 and .80) for mother and father's personal authority. People who endorse ethics of conscience trust people, including authority, and will conform to their laws, contrarywise, those who follow the ethics of responsibility don't trust others, including authority figures and act upon their morals and values. The results support the discrepancy between impersonal public authority from personal private authority and emphasizes the changing aspects of conformity between the relationship among the SEA and the attitudes toward authority.


Sigelman, C. K., & Sigelman, L. (1976). Authority and conformity: Violation of a traffic regulation. The Journal of Social Psychology, 100(1), 35–43.

In this study, the researchers used 726 male and female Anglo motorists at an intersection located in Texas. They wanted to measure how often drivers would turn right on a red light with two conditions; a non-uniformed man and a uniformed man at the corner. In some areas, making a right turn on a red light can be illegal; hence, it is common to think that making a right turn on a red light may be prohibited. Each condition was performed in the busiest intersection in Texas on separate days, lasting 45 minutes each session. The observers of the study closely watched the motorist and took down the detail of the passing subjects. They observed their gender, approximate age, ethnicity, year, and model of their cars. In the uniform condition, a 20-year old male wore an ROTC Air Force uniform and stood on the corner of the intersection where motorist turns right. He expressed authority with folded arms and presented strong body language that is suggestive of a policeman. Statistical analyses were used in the form of a 2x2 contingency table to test their hypothesis of how a uniformed authority figure can impact the decisions of a motorist to make a right on a red light. The substantial overall effect for the non-uniformed authority figure was 55.4% that turned right on a red light and 42.9% turning right with the uniformed authority figure. They also found that young males in both conditions were more likely to make a right turn when an authority figure is present than females and older people. As uniforms hold a presence of authority, this study confirms that every person is affected differently. Women and older people were found consistently more law-abiding across all conditions and highlights that when a uniformed authority figure is present, it will increase compliance.

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