Why people obey

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  • Created on: 11-01-13 07:33
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Why people obey:
1. Gradual commitment
2. Agentic shift
3. The role of buffers
4. Justifying obedience
Gradual commitment:
In Milgram's experiment the participants have started giving shock of low
level voltage, this makes it a lot harder for them to resist the
experimenters requirement for them to increase the voltage
Also in Milgram's experiment the increase in voltage is only going up by 15v
each time so it is hard for participants to know when would be an
appropriate time to stop therefore found it hard to stop giving the
shocks e.g. foot-in-the-door method of persuasion
Agentic shift:
This is appropriate for Milgram's study as it that the person is acting as
an agent for someone else; they are following their orders, in Milgram's
experiment the participants were being told what to do by the
People can use the point that they are being told what to do by someone
else as a way to pass on the blame for their actions, this allowed
participants in Milgram's experiment to carry on giving the shocks as they
were being told what to do it was not there intention to hurt anyone, in
their head they were not doing anything wrong as they were following
the experimenters instructions.
Evaluation of Agentic shift as an explanation of why people obey:
-VE - Browning (1992) compared the results of Milgram's experiment to the
holocaust, he suggested that agentic shift may not be an explanation for
obedience as a whole, this is supported by the fact that in the holocaust 1
battalion of soldiers killed 38,000 Jews over a 4 years period whereas in
Milgram's experiment participants were only giving people shocks for half
an hour and they were told the shocks weren't harmful to the learner.
The role of buffers:
This suggests that when someone in unable to see the consequences on
their actions they are more likely to continue with the behaviour for
example in Milgram's experiment the original study the learner
(confederate) and teacher (participant) were in different rooms so the
participant couldn't see the effects of the shock on the other person
The levels of obedience dropped when the participant was in the same
room as the learner as they could see the reaction of the learner
Justifying obedience:
This is the idea that someone is given a suitable excuse to carry on being
obedient no matter what the consequence is
In Milgram's experiment when the participant wanted to stop they were
told `you must continue as the experiment requires it' this provided the
participant with a reason to continue, as they believed it was good for
science. The same applies to the holocaust the Nazi soldiers were told
the Jews were a threat to all Germans so they believed they were
saving the people of Germany by killing Jews.

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Evaluation of justifying obedience:
-VE ­ Mandel (1998) suggested that Milgram's original claim that people
having a suitable alibi provided increases obedience and offers a situational
explanation of the holocaust has a number of negative consequences:
The idea that obedience played a main role in the holocaust are
unjustified by historical records
The idea that the soldiers involved in the holocaust were just
obeying orders is disturbing for people affected by the holocaust
This explanation would effectively suggest that the soldiers
involved were not criminals…read more


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