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(Study of Obedience)
Aims and Context ­
Social psychology refers too our interactions with others and how our behaviour is
affected by individuals and groups. Obedience is a type of social influence that
causes a person to act in response to a direct order from an authority figure. Milgram
suggests that obedience is necessary for our society to function and that if we do not
obey the laws of society then it would fall apart. This is because there is a form of
obedience in many aspects of all societies, including obedience towards, teachers,
parents and the government. He also argued that obedience could be used for a force
of good, as well as actions, which may be unreasonable and/or dangerous, as
shown, by the case of Adolf Eichmann.
On 11th April 1961 the trial of Eichmann, a nazi lieutenant soldier in World War 2,
began. He was widely regarded as the architect of the German programme for the
extermination of Jews in Nazi concentration camps during the Holocaust. He was
charged with acts against humanity and war crimes. Eichmann speaking in his own
defence always stuck to the reason that he was only following orders and claimed
that he was merely a transmitter with very little power. He testified that he never did
anything without being instructed to do so by Hitler or any other superior. During the
cross ­ examination, the prosecutor asked Eichmann if he found himself guilty of the
manslaughter of the Jews. He replied that in terms of a moral sense, then yes he was
guilty, but from a legal perspective he was not.
The political theorist, Hannah Arendt observed the trial and questioned whether in
some circumstances the most ordinary and decent person can become a criminal
this is a situational explanation of the event.
Whereas, a dispositional explanation of this is that there is something about a
person's character that leads them to act in such an inhumane way and that it is a
reflection of their personality, i.e. the `Germans are different' hypothesis.
Adorno et Al proposed that Germans have an authoritarian personality, which means
that they tended to be servile to those of a higher status. He proposed that people with
this type of personality are likely to be prejudiced against minority groups as a result of
unconscious hostility. This kind of explanation relied heavily on the psychodynamic
This formed the basis of Milligrams research as he wanted to refute the Germans are
different hypothesis. Milgram aimed to create a situation, which allowed him to
assess exactly how obedient individuals would be in a controlled environment and
also to investigate the extent to which people would inflict harm on another person
merely because someone in authority told them to do so.

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(Study of Obedience)
Procedure ­
Milgram's study took place at Yale University, because it was prestigious and he
believed that it added authority to the situation. The participants consisted of 40
males aged 20 to 50, whose jobs ranged from unskilled labourers to teachers
and engineers. They were recruited by a newspaper advertisement offering 4
dollars payment to take part in what they thought was a memory study. They were
told that the experiment was designed to see the effects of punishment on
learning.…read more

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The participants were only considered obedient if they continued up to the full
450 volts. The participants were then debriefed and reunited with the learner
before being interviewed about their experience.
(Study of Obedience)
Findings and Conclusions ­
Prior to the study Milgram surveyed 14 Yale psychology students, who estimated
that 03% of the participants would administer the full 450 volts.…read more

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(Study of Obedience)
Methodology ­
Milgram conducted his research in a lab environment, an advantage of this is
that it could be considered that the results were more reliable because the study
followed a standardised procedure, meaning that it would be easy to replicate as
shown by later studies, that supported Milgrams results (e.g. Burger 2009).…read more


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