Evaluation of research into obedience

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  • Evaluating Research into Obedience
    • Ethical issues
      • Deception and lack of informed consent
        • Milgram decieved his participants by telling them they were involved in a study of the effects of punishment on learning. He argued that the experiment would have pointless without some degree of deception
          • Milgram argued that the experiment would have pointless without some degree of deception
            • This effectvely denied the participants the right to informed consent.
              • Despite this many of the participants subsequently felt they had learned something of personal importance from their participation.
      • Right to withdraw?
        • Milgram claimed that the participants knew they were free to leave at any time, as demonstrated by the fact that some people did leave.
          • Others argued that the 'prods' from the experimenter made this very difficult for some participants who felt they had no choice about continuing.
      • Protection of psychological harm
        • Baumrind (1964) attacked Milgram's study claiming he placed his participants under great emotional strain, causing psychological harm.
          • Milgram defended himself in several ways. First, he did not know such high levels of distress would be caused.
            • Second, he asked participants afterwards if they had found the experience distressing, and interviewed them again a year later.
              • At this point 84% were glad to have participated and 74% felt they had learned something of personal importance.
        • Darley (1992) suggested that the experience of administering shocks may activate a previously dormant aspect of an individuals personality so that they feel more able and more motivated to repeat the actions.
      • Why was Milgram's research subjected to so much hostile criticism?
        • Milgram's findings were more shocking because they challenged Western ideas about freedom and personal responsibility.
          • The capacity for moral decision making is suspended when an individual is embedded within a powerful social heirarchy.
    • Validity
      • Realism
        • According to Orne and Holland (1968) there is doubt about the internal validity of Milgrams study.
          • They claim that participants in psychological studies have learned to distrust experimenters because they know the purpose of the experiment may be disguised.
            • Milgram challenged this. Post experimental interviews showed that, during the study, the vast majority had believed they were giving real shocks and that the victims distress was likewise real.
      • Generalisability
        • Hofling et al (1966) conducted a study in a hospital. Nurses were telephoned by a 'Dr Smith' who asked that they give 20mg of a drug to a patient.
          • The order contravened hospital regulations in a number of ways. Nurses were not to take instructions over the phone from an unknown doctor and the dosage was twice that advised on the bottle
            • Despite this 95% of nurses did as requested
        • Rank and Jacobsen also asked nurses to carry out an irregular order. This time 89% refused - this time the drug was familiar and the nurses were allowed to consult with peers a more realistic representation of actual hospital practices.


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