Social Psychology - Agency theory and social identity theory

Notes based on agency theory and social identity theory including:

  • Detailed outline of Milgrams (1963) study 
  • Evaluation of Milgrams study
  • Variations of Milgrams study
  • Detailed outline of Meeus and Raaijmakers (1985)
  • Evaluation and comparison of Meeus and Raaijmakers (1985) with Milgram
  • Explanation of agency theory
  • Evaluation of agency theory
  • Explanation of social identity theory (Tajfel 1970).
  • Evaluation of social identity theory
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Obedience.
· Obedience is following an order given by a person with
recognised authority over you.
· Most of the time this is a sensible thing e.g. being told by a
police officer to evacuate a building during a security alert and
many jobs rely on people following orders. However obedience
has sometimes been blamed for ordinary people committing
horrible acts.
· Observations from war crime trials (Nazi Germany during world
war 2) reveal that the excuse of `following orders' was often
given as a explanation for committing atrocious acts.
· There is debate about the causes of such behaviour whether it
lies in thee person or the situation they find themselves in.…read more

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Behavioural study of obedience to
malevolent authority (Milgram, 1963)
Aim:
To establish a baseline measure of how obedient naïve
participants would be when ordered to administer
increasingly intense electric shocks to an innocent victim.…read more

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Behavioural study of obedience to
malevolent authority (Milgram, 1963)
Method:
· Sample of 40 volunteers ­ newspaper advertisement for a study on human
memory.
· The advert offered $4 plus car are to any adult local man prepared to come to
Yale university for the study.
· Pp's were told that they and an other man (confederate) would take part in a study
on the effect of punishment on memory.
· The pp was always given role of teacher and the confederate the role of the
learner.
· They were shown the equipment, a shock generator with switches an lights going
from 15v to 450v with various descriptions about the shock levels and a chair with
straps on wired to the generator.
· They separated and the experiment began with the teacher reading a word list
and testing the `learner'. The researcher began to tell the teacher to give a shock
to the learner and increase the shock every time an answer was wrong.
· The learner response was scripted and no actual shocks were given. At various
points he complained of pain, said his heart was starting to bother him and
refused to continue before going silent at 315v. The researcher consistently
encouraged the teacher to continue despite protesting.
· Obedience was measured by how far up the generator the teacher went before
refusing to obey anymore.…read more

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Behavioural study of obedience to
malevolent authority (Milgram, 1963)
Results:
Milgram surveyed groups of authority before the research.
When asked what level of shock they thought pp's would
go up too, most thought they would stop at the point that
the victim asked to be released (140v) and believed that
few, if any, would go beyond a very strong shock. But what
people say and what they actually do were proved to be
very different.
· 100% of participants shocked to 300v.
· 65% (26) of participants shocked to the full 450v.
· 14 stopped between 300v and 375v.…read more

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Behavioural study of obedience to
malevolent authority (Milgram, 1963)
Conclusions:
· The social setting is a powerful determinant of behaviour
­ we are socialised to recognise authority and to react
with obedience.
· When pp's entered the experiment they felt that they were
part of a situation and as such found it harder to break
away.
· Having started to obey it became harder and harder to
say no.…read more

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