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A real life incident in which a phony cop induces a chain-restaurant owner to investigate an employee he accused of stealing from customers provides substantial support for these two social scientists. “Officer Scott” visited a restaurant and asked for the manager. When she arrived, he simply stated that an employee had been stealing from customers and that it would be simpler for everyone if the employee were searched on the premises. Officer Scott claimed to have the manager’s boss on his cell phone. The 18 year old female employee was strip-searched with no money found. At that point, Officer Scott induced the manager’s fiancé to watch over the employee when the manager claimed she had to take care of something out front. That something was to call her boss who was shocked by what the manager said. Meanwhile Officer Scott had induced the manager’s fiancé to rape the employee.

Officer Scott, one David Stewart, was acquitted on insufficient evidence; the manager’s fiancé, Walter Nix, was sentenced to five years in prison. The store manager was not charged in that she was able stop things and call the police, if too late.

This would be unbelievable except that the restaurant chain settled with their employee for over a million dollars, even though they had issued a scam warning to all stores before the event.

Moreover the scam supports Milgram’s study of obedience in the behaviors of the store manager and her fiance, Walter Nix, in that they both went along with instructions that ended in a crime. The young victim could hardly be blamed in fact, but she too may have been victimized by her own tendency to be overly obedient. Beyond all that this episode is a real-life example of just what can happen in response to artificial authority, as vividly shown by Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment.

References for above restaurant crime.

Bloomberg Businessweek Aug 27 – Sept 2 2012, p 74-75.

Milgram Book Review:

What Milgram found:

Zimbardo's Stanford Experiment:

Zimbardo's website:

For how this fits in the broad picture of violence, see

In fact, it also fits what happened at Abu Ghraib


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