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My partner is writing a reflective essay that outlines an incident where she had questioned something that someone was doing and they disagreed, and because they were more senior than her, she assumed that they knew what they were talking about, so didn't push further.

Is there a word that or short phrase that encapsulates this meaning?

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    Is "authority bias" what you're looking for? Nov 21 '16 at 21:09
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The phrase you are looking for is the Authority Principle / Principle of Authority

The basis of the principle is:

If an expert says it, then it must be true

Indicators of Authority examples:

  • Uniforms

  • Wealth

  • Power

  • Physical attributes

  • Attitude

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I believe you are looking for a single word. One possibility would be "deference" -

Polite submission and respect: ‘he addressed her with the deference due to age’

Phrases:

'in deference to'

    Out of respect for; in consideration of:
    ‘in deference to her wishes we spent two weeks on the coast’

Oxford Dictionary

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    'Deference' doesn't always predicate a belief that the person is correct on a given issue, though one sense carries that meaning. Nov 21 '16 at 22:38
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You could use the phrase, out of respect for his/her authority. For example, "out of respect for her authority, he deferred to her decision".

Another phrase would be, questioning authority, which can also be used in the negative. "Because he is not one to question authority, he deferred to her decision".

A third phrase would be complying with authority. "Because he tends to comply with authority, he didn't question her decision".

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Since you indicated that a phrase is acceptable, consider the idiom "from the horse's mouth".

You can then say:

My partner did not question it further because she felt she heard it from the horse's mouth.

TFD:

(straight) from the horse's mouth
if you get information about something from the horse's mouth, you get it from someone who is involved in it and knows a lot about it
'Are you sure she's leaving?' 'Definitely, I heard it straight from the horse's mouth.'

Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd ed. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2006.

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  • An interesting idea; my own interpretation of that phrase is that you are speaking to the person which something affects directly, or the person who originally discovered that thing. In this scenario, Doctors are not typically 'discovers' of things, however skilled and well educated they may be.
    – Nij
    Nov 23 '16 at 18:16
  • @Nij, the usage in this sense is as per the specific definition I referred to. May not be the most prevalent sense of the idiom. Nov 23 '16 at 18:24

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