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  • The social area
  • Understanding how the thoughts, feeling and behaviour of individuals are influenced by the presence of others
  • Responses to people in authority
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The aim of the experiment was to investigate what level of obedience would be shown when participants were told by an authority figure to administer electric shocks to another person.

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  • Yale university
  • Experimenter played by high school biology teacher
  • Wore lab coat
  • Stern expression
  • Victim was a 47 y/o  male, likeable and mild mannered
  • experiment- had dv, controls, didn't originally have an IV, until he repeated in other conditions.
  • standardised procedure
  • replicable
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  • 40 males
  • Between ages of 20 and 50
  • From New Haven area
  • Newspaper advertisement
  • Direct mailing
  • Told they were to study learning and memory
  • Paid $4.50 for participation
  • Told they would get money no matter what.
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  • Experimenter said it was to find out the effect of punishment on learning
  • Participant and victim pulled paper from a hat- rigged
  • Pp always teacher
  • Learner in 'electric chair'- he watched
  • Learning task- teacher read word pairs, then first word with three others, had to guess which one
  • Shock generator- looked authentic.
  • 30 switches in a row
  • Each switch had a voltage 15-450
  • 'slight shock-very strong shock- Danger:severe shock- XXX'
  • Sample shock- each teacher recieved a 45 volt shock to the wrist- convince of authenticity
  • Shock instructions
  • Instructed to administer shock every wrong response
  • Move level higher each time
  • Announce voltage each time
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  • Victim feedback
  • 300 volt - kick wall
  • After that- no more responses
  • Wait 5-10 seconds before administering another shock
  • 315- another kick
  • No more responses after that
  • Experimenter feedback
  • 1- please continue
  • 2- experiment requires you to continue
  • 3-Absolutely essential you continue
  • 4- you have no other choice, you must go on
  • And also if asked no tissue damage just painful
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  • 14 Final year psychology students Yale
  • Asked to predict how '100 Americans of diverse occupations, and ranging from 20-50 years ' to behave
  • Estimated from 0-3 % would go to end of shock series
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  • No participants broke off before 300 volts
  • 26 obeyed up to 450 volt max
  • Signs of extreme tension
  • Sweat
  • Tremble
  • Stutter
  • Bite lips
  • Dig fingernails in flesh
  • 14- nervous laughter
  • 3 uncontrollable seizures
  • Comments before defiance- anger and agitation- 'no I don't want to go on. This is crazy'
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  1. This is a situation that produces extremely strong tendencies to obey
  2. The situation generates extraordinary tension and emotional strain
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9 features that help explain high level of obedience:

  1. Yale Uni- institution of impeachable reputation
  2. On face of it- a worthy purpose- advancement on knowledge of learning and memory
  3. PP believed the victim to have voluntarily submitted to authority of experimenter
  4. PP volunteered to take part in the experiment- felt obliged to take part
  5. Being paid strengthened obligation
  6. In PP's opinion, they had an equal chance of being the learner- ran the same risk so can't complain
  7. Lack of clarity in what the psychologist could expect of a participant, and what would be over stepping the limits
  8. PP's had been assured the shocks were painful but not dangerous
  9. As long as the learner provided answers on signal box, then he was willing to continue the game.
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4 feature to explain the tension:

  1. In position in which he had to competing demands to respond too- and both couldnt be met
  2. Demands of the experimenter and the victim were very different
  3. Experiment gave the PP little time to reflect
  4. Experiment involved PP's experiencing conflict between disposition to not to harm and  tendency to obey those perceived as legitimate higher authority.
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