Obedience: Milgram's Research

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  • Obediance: Milgram's Research, 1963
    • Procedure
      • 40, American, male participants aged between 20 and 50 years.
        • The p. were each paid $4.50 before the study began.
      • The study was advertised as a study on memory.
      • There was a rigged draw for the roles of the teacher and learner where the naive participant would always get the role of teacher.
      • The 'learner' was strapped into a chair in the other room and attached to electrodes
        • The teacher was required to give the learner increasingly severe electric shocks each time the learner got an answer to a question wrong
          • These electric shocks were demonstrated to the teacher but after this they were not real.
            • The electric shocks began at 15 volts and increased in 15 volt increments to 450 volts.
      • At 300 volts, the learner would pound on the door and not answer the next question and after 315 volts there would be one more pound on the door and then no more noise from the learner.
      • If the teacher asked the 'experimenter' for guidance, a standard response was given to the teacher. If the teacher was still unsure, prods were given.
    • Findings
      • All participants gave at least 300 volts
      • 65% gave the full 450 volts
      • Despite wanting to stop and showing signs of extreme anxiety, most p. continued to administer shocks when encouraged to do so
      • Only 5 participants stopped at 300 volts.
    • Evaluation
      • Low internal validty
        • Orne and Holland (1968) argued that the p. acted as they did because they did not believe that they were actually shocking someone.
        • However, Sheridan and King (1972) conducted a study where real electric shocks were given to a puppy. Despite the real shocks, 54% of the men and 100% of the women gave what they believed to be a fatal shock.
        • This suggests that Milgram's results were genuine because people behaved the same way with real shocks.
      • High External Validity
        • Hofling (1966) partially replicated the study in a real-life setting. 21 out of 22 nurses adminstered an unknown drug to a patient when instructed to do so by a doctor over the phone.
        • This suggests that Milgram's results can be generalized the real-world setting.
      • Highly unethical
        • No proper right to withdrawal as they were told they could leave the study at any time.
          • However, if the teacher became uncomfortable about continuing the study, the experimenter gave the p. a series of 4 prods to discourage the p. from withdrawing.
          • This was justified by Milgram saying that the study was about obediance so there had to be a certain amount of order, even though the p. were under the impression that the study was about memory
        • Deception as the p. believed that they were actually shocking a real person.
          • The p. were unaware that the learner was a confederate.
            • Milgram argued that the illusion was necessary to 'set to stage' for the study.
              • He also justified it by giving the p. a debrief after the study.
    • Situational Factors
      • Uniforms
        • Bickman (74) demonstrated that visible signs of authority increase authority.
        • Individuals were more likely to obey opportunistic requests when the accomplices were dressed as guards; these conditions are consistent with those in Milgram's research in which there was an authority figure.
      • Legitimate authority
        • Signs of authority give the impression of legitmacy; when these are removed obediance is less likely to be displayed. E.g. when a variation of the study was conducted in an office in Bridgeport, complete obediance dropped from 65% to 48%
      • Gradual Commitment
        • By increasing the need for obediance and levels of shock by small increments, p. were progressivly more involved in the research and may have felt pressure to continue.


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