IN 1966, IN A US PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL, A DOCTOR NAMED CHARLES HOFLING SET OUT
TO INVESTIGATE THE POWER OF AUTHORITY.
He invented a fake medicine and placed bottles of the imagined drug in the hospital pharmacy. Every bottle clearly stated: Maximum dose 10mg.
Then, he asked a group of nurses a theoretical question: "If a doctor called you on the phone (against hospital policy) and instructed you to give your patient 20mg of this medicine, would you?"
94% said no, of course, they'd follow the rules.
But among another group of nurses, Hofling tested the reality. Posing as "Dr Smith", he phoned them up and asked them to give 20mg of the drug to their patients.
And guess what?
95% of nurses did. They ignored the label, flouted policy, and unquestioningly followed the instructions of an anonymous authority to overdose their patients. Thankfully, the pills were harmless.
The name of the imagined agent was ASTROTEN*
*In fact, we got the name wrong. It was Astrogen. But if you look up Astrogen online, Google thinks you’ve made a mistake and gives you articles about oestrogen.