Website by Tom Shotton


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 fantasy drug in the hospital pharmacy. Every bottle clearly stated that the maximum dose was 10mg.

Then, posing as “Dr Smith”, he asked nurses to give his patients a 20mg dose of the stuff. He instructed them over the phone – against hospital policy.

When asked, 10 out 12 nurses and 21 out of 21 student nurses in the control group claimed they would not give the medicine as instructed.

But the reality was different - 21 out of 22 nurses ignored the label, flouted policy, and unquestioningly followed his instructions to overdose the patients. 

The name of the agent was Astroten*

The morals of the story? People place authority over instinct. People do not do what they say would do.

At Astroten, we understand people and we can help you to as well.

*Interestingly, we got the name wrong. It was actually Astrogen. But if you lookup Astrogen online, Google thinks you’ve make a mistake and all you get is articles about the female hormone estrogen. Anyway, let’s call this the pratfall effect** in action.

** Read The Choice Factory to find out what this means