Situational Variables Affecting Obedience

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  • Situational variables affecting obedience
    • Key study: Milgram
      • Procedure: 40 PP's at a time over a series of conditions, each varying some aspect of the situation to calculate affect of obedience
        • PP's told the aim was how does punishment affect learning
          • Deception
        • 2 confederates the experimenter and the learner
          • Was rigged so PP was always the teacher
        • Every time the 'learner' got a question wrong the teacher would administer an increasingly strong electric shock starting at 15 volts all the way to 450
          • The learner gave mainly wrong answers
            • If the teacher asked to stop at any point the experimenter gave prods encouraging the PP to continue
      • Findings: 26 of the 40 PP's continued to the full 450 volts and all PP' went to 300 volts
    • Situational Factors in obedience
      • Proximity:
        • 1) Both the teacher and the learner were seated in the same room and obedience levels fell to 40%
        • 2) The teacher had to force the learners hand on the shock plate obedience fell to 30%
        • Proximity of the experimenter also had an effect - with the experimenter out of the room only 21% continued to 450 volts
      • Location:
        • The original study was conducted in the psychology lab at Yale university
          • The status of the location gave the PP's confidence in the integrity of the people involved
        • Milgram moved the study to a run down office and obedience rates dropped to 48%
      • The power of uniform:
        • Research shows that uniform has a powerful impact on obedience as they convey power and authority
        • When the experiment was not wearing a white lobe coat obedience levels dropped
    • Evaluation:
      • Ethical issues:
        • Milgram was criticised for his lack of concern for the well being of his PP's
          • He had deceived his PP's as he did not reveal the true aim of the study but telling the m they were involved in a study of the effects of punishment on learning
            • Made it impossible for the PP's to give their full consent
          • Claimed PP's had the right to withdraw and were free to leave at any time although the prods from the experimenter made it difficult for them to do so
      • Internal validity: Lack of realism
        • Orne and Holland claimed that PP's are learning to distrust experimenters because they no the true aim maybe be disguised
          • In Milgram's study study while the learner was crying out in pain the experimenter remained cool and calm leading the PP's to believe that the learner is in no real pain
          • Perry found that many of the PP's in Milgram's study did doubt if the shocks were real
      • Individual Differences: Influence of gender
        • Common assumption that women are more susceptible to social influence than men
          • Milgram did compensate for this by having one condition in which PP's were female
            • However the rate of obedience was exactly the same
            • Bass studied 9 other replications of Milgram's study which has both male and female PP's and 8 out of 9 found no evidence for gender difference
      • External Validity: Obedience alibi
        • Mandel claims that Milgram's conclusions about the about the situational determinants of obedience are not borne out by real life events
      • Historical validity: would the same happen today
        • Carried out 50 years ago
        • Recent study by Burger 2009 found levels of obedience almost identical to those found by Milgram 46 years earlier
          • Milgram's study still applies to today just as much as it did in the 1960s


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