Army and police training are physically daunting tasks; everyone knows that. One particular reason is to make the trainees physically strong and fit. But, on more than one occasion, I have heard people (sometimes army personnel themselves) saying that "Training is made tougher so as to make the officer learn to take orders from superiors", in other words to reduce the reasoning ability and make them just follow orders.

Is this true?

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    That depends entirely on the army in question. Some countries preferred lessened reasoning ability. The ones that generally won (Temuchin's Mongols, US Army as 2 disparate examples) are pretty high on valuing low level initiative and reasoning ability. For some reason you don't seem to be able to tell the difference between discipline (following orders) and being able to think.
    – user5341
    Jul 19, 2011 at 17:34
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    -1: The really dubious claim here is the one you take as a given: That reducing reasoning ability makes you follow orders.
    – Zano
    Oct 27, 2011 at 14:38
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    train as you fight, fight as you train. Combat is stressful, intensive, chaotic. Therefore proper training has to be the same. Recruits have to be taught to think and act properly when exhausted, under high stress, and physically challenged all at the same time in order to perform well in combat situations.
    – jwenting
    Oct 28, 2011 at 6:24
  • Question should be closed because it asks for motivation.
    – Christian
    Dec 21, 2012 at 17:28

1 Answer 1


It's a huge mistake to think that the army (at least a modern well-trained army) wants to reduce the reasoning ability of its soldiers. It's also a huge mistake to assume that the ability to follow orders contradicts reasoning ability.

Here are a number of official and semi-official army documents that show that initiative, judgement and reasoning are essential parts of military leadership:

Having said that, one of the things a soldier is expected to do is obey orders when needed—because, as one of the documents puts it, "instant obedience may one day save your life". Training certainly teaches them to do that.

In answer to a question, sleep shortage and other stressors do play part of military training. Their purpose is to teach recruits to operate under stress.

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    Is there a connection between the "toughness" of the training, and the subsequent or consequent learning to follow orders?
    – ChrisW
    Jul 20, 2011 at 14:08
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    Is there any evidence of training methods which lessen the subjects' will or ego: of sleep deprivation, for example, or similar tactics which are also applied e.g. to captives under interrogation? Assuming that the answer is 'yes', is this a by-product of the training method, or a direct purpose of the method?
    – ChrisW
    Jul 20, 2011 at 14:20
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    The question is "Do they make training tough to ensure that trainees learn to follow orders". Your last sentence answers that question, "Their purpose is to teach recruits to operate under stress": but, your last sentence is unreferenced. Given that those stressors are known to be (or, known to be also) brain-washing techniques, and assuming that any training may and probably does have more than one purpose, is there any evidence for or against the "stress-in-order-to-'just follow orders'" hypothesis?
    – ChrisW
    Jul 21, 2011 at 2:41
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    The original question was about physical toughness and reduced reasoning ability. I don't want to discuss your supplementary question about sleep deprivation in the comments section. Feel free to ask a question about it. Jul 21, 2011 at 14:23

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