Explanations for Obedience

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  • Explanations for Obedience
    • Legitimacy of Authority
      • AO1
        • More likely to obey people who we perceive as having authority over us
        • Generally accept that authority figures can punish others because we trust them
        • Most societies are structured hierarchically
          • People in certain positions hold authority over others
          • We accept it because it maintains order within society
        • Justify someone's authority by looking at their position within society
          • Their position in society makes us likely to obey the orders of certain individuals
      • AO3
        • Research support: Blass and Schmidtt (2001)
          • Showed footage from Milgram's experiment to students and asked them to identify who was responsible for any harm
          • Students stated the experimenter was to blame - had most responsibility:being at top of hierarchy
        • Cultural Differences
          • Authority figures will be accepted as legitimate depending on structure of society and how well children are raised to perceive authority figures
          • Cross cultural research shows obedience rates vary
            • Milgram's study was replicated in Australia (16% obedience) and Germany (85% obedience)
        • Explains real-life war crimes eg Nazis
          • Soldier's stated they were fulfilling their duty by following orders
            • Demonstrates that they saw authority figures as legitimate so believed they were right
    • Agentic State
      • AO1
        • We obey because we don't take responsibility for our own actions
        • If we believe we're acting for someone else - more likely to obey
        • Acting as an agent for them
          • Doesn't mean we don't feel anxious about what we're doing, but feel as if we cannot disobey authority
        • Opposite of being in the 'autonomous' state
          • Feel that we're acting independently and so behave according to own individual morals
          • Autonomous to agentic = agentic shift
            • Milgram believed the shift occurs because we believe someone else has greater power
        • Binding factors are specific aspects of a situation that help an individulal stay in the agentic state
          • Allow the person to ignore the effects of their behaviour
      • AO3
        • Cannot explain Nazi behaviour (Mandel)
          • Recalled an incident where German police were not asked to shoot civillians yet they did


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