Authority bias is the tendency to attribute greater accuracy to the opinion of an authority figure (unrelated to its content) and be more influenced by that opinion. This concept is considered one of the so-called social cognitive biases or collective cognitive biases. The Milgram experiment in 1961 was the classic experiment that established its existence.
Humans generally have a deep-seated duty to authority, and tend to comply when requested by an authority figure. There are scholars who explain that individuals are motivated to view authority as deserving of their position and this legitimacy lead people to accept and obey the decisions that it makes. System justification theory articulates this phenomenon, particularly within its position that there is a psychological motivation for believing in the steadiness, stability and justness of the current social system.
In any society, a diverse and widely accepted system of authority allows the development of sophisticated structures for the production of resources, trade, expansion and social control. Since the opposite is anarchy, we are all trained from birth to believe that obedience to authority is right. Notions of submission and loyalty to legitimate rule of others are accorded values in schools, the law, the military and in political systems. The strength of the bias to obey a legitimate authority figure comes from systemic socialization practices designed to instill in people the perception that such obedience constitutes correct behavior. Different societies vary the terms of this dimension. As we grow up, we learn that it benefits us to obey the dictates of genuine authority figures because such individuals usually possess higher degrees of knowledge, wisdom and power. We tend to do what our doctor advises. Consequently, deference to authority can occur in a mindless fashion as a kind of decision-making short cut.
The authority bias is demonstrated in the case of the highest paid persons' opinion (HIPPO) impact, which describes how employees and other stakeholders in the solution environment tend to go with the opinions and impressions of the highly paid people in an organization.
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