Situational variables affecting obedience

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  • Situational variables affecting obedience
    • Milgram's study - Participants were lead to believe that it was a study about punishment's effect on learning, but actually it's aim was to study obedience to authority.
      • The participant had to teach the learner, and if the learner was wrong they had to give them an electric shock, going up in 15V increments to a maximum of a deadly 450 volts. If they asked to stop, the experimenter prodded them to continye saying "It is absolutely essential that you continue." The experimenter was the authority.
      • They found that 65%  continued to 450V despite that it was labelled "***". All participants went to 300V.
      • Situational factors
        • Proximity - when the teacher and learner were in the same room, obedience levels fell to 40% as the teacher could experience the learner's anguish more directly.  When the experimenter delivered instructions over the phone only 21% continued to the maximum voltage.
        • Location - the studies took place in a psychology lab at Yale University, which the participants said gave them confidence in the integrity of those involved. But when it was moved to a run down office in Bridgeport the obedience levels dropped slightly but not significantly.
        • Uniform - Bickman carried out a study where a female researcher was dressed as a policewoman, a business executive or a beggar, and stopped people to ask for change. In uniform, 72% obeyed, but as a beggar obedience rates were 52%. The uniform symbolises power and authority.
    • Obedience to authority is a type of social influence where a person acts in response to a direct order from someone with perceived authority. It is implied the order made them respond in a way they otherwise wouldn't have done.


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