It’s the polite ones you have to watch, according to a surprising new study.
The experiment carried out at the Université Pierre Mendes-France had participants deliver electric shocks to an innocent person.
Researchers found that people who are conscientious and more agreeable were more likely to comply with giving the shocks. On the other hand, contrarian personalities who are harder to get along with were less likely to hurt others. Less agreeable participants would downright refuse to hurt others.
Psychologists believe polite people are more compliant and willing to make harmful and destructive choices if they felt it will help them conform to social expectations.
Agreeable people didn’t want to upset anyone by not complying with orders.
The experiment is a variation on Stanley Milgramm’s 1960s obedience study in which people were asked to “shock” other people until they died. A startling number of participants followed orders in that study and truly thought they had “killed” others.
The study has long been used to understand compliance during the Holocaust and why soldiers would follow despicable orders to commit genocide.