Agentic State

An agentic state is a state of mind in which a person will allow other people to direct their behaviors and pass responsibility for the consequences of the behaviors to the person telling them what to do. This is a concept in Stanley Milgram's Agency Theory and is one of two states that an individual is in during social situations.

The other state is the autonomous state in which individuals direct their own behaviors and actions and take responsibility for consequences themselves. If in an agentic state people are 'agents' for another person and do what they are told to do, passing responsibility onto the ones directing their actions.

Two conditions must be present in order to be in an agentic state. The first is that the person who is in charge and giving the orders must be viewed as a legitimate leader and qualified to direct behavior. The second condition is that the individual must feel that the leader will accept responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

Research conducted by Milgram in his famous authority experiments showed that when individuals were told they had responsibility for the consequences of the increasing 'shocks' to the person in the other room they didn't obey the experimenter who was telling them to deliver the 'shocks' and wouldn't continue. When the experimenter would accept responsibility for the electric 'shocks' the participants would continue to deliver them to the person. This is an example of the agentic state: the participants would allow their actions to be directed by another person while giving responsibility to the person who was giving them the orders.

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