Disobeying an Illegitimate Request in a Democratic or Authoritarian System

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Abstract

Crimes of obedience in the form of illegal or immoral acts committed in response to orders from authority occur in many contexts. In particular, under some circumstances of threats, people can easily accept restrictions upon democratic procedures. Recent studies have underlined the role of legitimacy in understanding the authority relationship and the importance of evaluating the legitimacy of the request rather than the legitimacy of the authority in preventing the rise of authoritarianism. The purpose of this study was to verify if people respond differently when an illegitimate request is put forward by a democratic or an authoritarian authority. The results on 224 subjects confirmed that people tend to be more obedient when they perceive authorities as democratic, notwithstanding the legitimacy of their requests.

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