Unit 2; Core Studies; Milgram

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  • Milgram
    • Background: in WWII, Adolf Eichmann organised the Holocaust but said he was just obeying orders
    • Aim: investigate level of obedience of participants asked by an authority figure to give someone electric shocks
    • Controlled observation so no IV but DV: was obedience (voltage reached before stopping)
    • Sample: 40 males aged 20-50 from New Haven USA. Self-selected, responded to paper ad, earned $4.50
    • Procedure
      • told experiment was to investigate punishment & learning
      • 'lucky dip' for who was teacher who was learner: but was fixed, participant was always teacher
      • 'learner' strapped to chair & teacher told no harmful risks
      • tecaher given shock of 45volts
      • teacher reads series of word pairs for learner to learn
      • teacher asked learner to identify correct answer from 4 option by pressing switches
      • if learner got answer wrong then teacher would apply a shock, which increased by 15v each time
      • if teacher showed discomfort, 'prods' were used, like 'please continue'
      • experiment ended when 450v reached or teacher withdrew
      • participants debriefed
    • Findings: 65% went to 450v. All went to 300v, 5 refused then.
      • some men sweated, cried, trembled, 3 had violent convulsions
    • Conclusion & Explanation
      • situation produced tendency to obey & casued emotional stress
      • Most obeyed as done at  credible institution, by 'competent' researcher, felt obliged to.
    • Ethics: broke deception,  withdrawal, informed consent, protection from harm
    • Ethnocentrism: N/A but generalisable
    • Reliability & Validity
      • IR: many controls
      • ER: could be larger but effect found
      • IV: participant variables in morality
      • EV: only males from New Haven, unlike real life but authority figures are common
    • Summary
      • Relates to social area as teacher felt obliged by authority
      • Relates to responses to authority as shows we're more likely to obey
    • Links to Debates: Individual vs Situational
      • majority all did the same and obeyed, even if they felt it was wrong


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