Charles Hofling (1966) conducted a field experiment in which 22 nurses received a phone call from an unknown doctor, were asked to give a patient a drug they were not familiar with and were told to give twice the maximum dosage stated on the bottle.
If nurses obeyed they would be breaking several hospital rules:
- No taking orders over the phone.
- Do not exceed maximum dosage on bottle.
- Medicine was not on the ward stock list.
21/22 nurses obeyed the doctor and were about to administer the drug before an observer intervened.
Only one nurse questioned the identity of the doctor. 11 of the nurses admitted they knew the dosage exceeded the maximum.
What does this study tell us about authority?
Is it easy to challenge a superior?