Explanations of why people obey

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Situational - Agentic State

Autinimous state: Under own control and take responsibility for our actions

Agentic state: Directed by an aitority figure and assume they will take responsibility for our actions

  • When under influence of authority figure we switch to agentic state
  • During Milgrams experiment if a Pps was reminded they took responsibility many stopped whereas if assured the experimenter would take responsibility most carried on
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Situational - Buffers

  • Anything which reduces or prevents the impact of consequence
  • If there are buffers you are more likely to obey
  • In milgrams study if the buffers were removed, obedience levels dropped

- eg. When the teacher had to press the learner's hand against a metal plate for the shock, obedience dropped to a rate of 30%

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Situational - Gradual commitment

  • Once you have committed to do something seemingly reasonable, it is difficult not to continue onto something with an increase in cruelty because the difference is so minimal
  • In milgrams study, the first shock was 15 volts and because of the 15 volt increase, Pps found it difficult not to administer the next shock
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Situational - legitimate authority

  • If the environment or appearence of the authority figure seem legitimate, we are more likely to obey
  • In Milgram's study, the experimenter wore a lab coat and the experiment was held at Yale University
  • When the experiment was done in a run-down office, obedience dropped to 48%
  • When the experimenter wore casual clothes instead of a lab coat, obedience dropped to 20%
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Dispositional - Authoritarian personality

  • A person with an authoritarian personality is more likely to obey
  • Characteristics include:
    • Intolerence of ambiguity
    • Hostility to inferior people
    • Servile to superior people
    • Rigid and inflexible
    • Upholder of conventional values
  • This can be caused by a harsh, punishing hostile upbringing
  • Therefore their attitude is redirected to minority groups
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