Respect My Authoritah?

by Aaron Burgess

On this week’s RAW, Triple H had a segment where he gave a "speech" on authority. In case you didn’t know, he belongs to a faction in the WWE referred to as THE AUTHORITY.

In his speech, he made a point about the natural instinct we all have to follow authority. Triple H talked about how everyone has an authority figure in their life that they don't challenge because they're afraid. He said that fear of authority is not a bad thing; it's actually what keeps order. He said, "nature provides you with this fear so you will know your place in life." He then decreed that Roman Reigns, the WWE’s number one title contender, should have honored that fear of authority, know his place, and respect the authority of the WWE hierarchy.

What Triple H actually touched on here is an interesting area of research in leadership studies. The research is actually not so much about leadership, but about followership—how we have a natural tendency or instinct to follow authority. Studies in leadership, psychology, and neuroscience have confirmed that compliance with authority is the default setting in our brain. For instance, children as young as three months old follow the eye gaze of their parents. Even dogs naturally follow with their eyes, pointing their head to their owner.  Click here to see an experiment I did with my dog last year. Watch how he naturally follows my pointing. This was the first time I did this with him and sure enough he followed my every point.  

If you don't buy into this theory about compliance, conduct this famous experiment: stand in a busy shopping area and stare silently at the sky. Eventually someone will stop and follow your gaze.

This was an experiment conducted in 1969 by Milgram, Bickman & Berkowitz and sure enough they got people to look into the sky. Dr. Jay Kidwell, a professor and colleague of mine at Cincinnati Christian University, refers to a study known as the Solomon Asche Line Study (1958). It’s a well-known study demonstrating the power of authority figures and our tendency to want to comply with authority.  

What are your views on authority and our tendency to comply with authority? Is Triple H right?