Milgram wanted to set up a situation in which single individuals were ordered to act against a stranger in an inhumane way and see at what point they would refuse to obey the order.
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Procedure part 1
- Milgram advertised for male volunteers by placing an advertisment in a local paper, offered $4.50 as payment for taking part in a study of 'learning and memory'.
- 40 participants were selected and were given individual appointments to attend the lab at Yale University.
- Greeted be 'experimenter' upon arrival, a 31 year-old teacher in a white coat, and introduced to a middle aged man whom they believed to be another participant (Mr Wallace) who was actually a confederate.
- Experimenter explained to both men that one participant would be the 'teacher' and one the 'learner'- rigged so participant was always the 'teacher'
- Both men were taken to a room which contained a shock generator with a series of switches, ranging from 15V- 450V, increasing in 15V increments.
- Written on the generator, along with the labels slight shock, moderate shock, strong shock, intense shock, danger of severe shock and XXX
- Experimenter explained to the teacher that it was his job to teach the learner a series of word pairs.
- If he answered incorrectly a shock would be administered, increasing by 15V with each wrong answer.
- Teacher was given a 15V shock to convince the test was real, and watched 'learner' be strapped into the chair and have electrodes placed on his wrists.
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Procedure part 2
- In response to the anxious enquiry from the learner about the danger of the shocks, the experimenter replied "the shocks may be painful but they are not dangerous"
- Teacher and learner were then placed in different rooms so that the teacher was able to hear but not see the learner.
- When the experiment started, the learner gave pre-determined set of answers, roughly 3 incorrect for every 1 correct.
- As shocks increased the learner's, pre-recorded, became more dramatic.
- At 315V he refused to answer and became silent.
- When the teacher objected to the procedure, the experimenter responded with a series of 'prods' which were standardised e.g. 'please continue', 'please go on', 'the experiment requires that you continue, teacher'.
- Due to further protest the experimenter started to say 'you have no other choice, you must go on'.
- During the experiments many of the participants showed sign of extreme tension- they shook, sweated and stuttered, with 14/40 showing nervous laughing fits.
- Many of the participants repeatedly argued with the experimenter but continued to obey.
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- Milgram found that all 40 participants went to 300V on the shock generator and 65% administered the maximum shock of 450V
- These findings shocking as Milgram as it was to other psychologists.
- Before Milgram carried out the study, he asked psychiatrists how many people they thought would obey comlpetely, they predicted that only 2.6% of particiapants would continue to administer a very strong shock of up to 240V.
- It is also important to notice disobedience in Milgram's study- despite the pressure put on his participants and the prestigious nature of the university, 35% of participants managed to defy the considerable pressure of the experiment.
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- use of the experimental method and the laboratory setting allowed Milgram to investigate obedience in a systematic and controlled way.
- Standarised procedures were used to ensure that participants were exposed to similar conditions.
- Milgram's research has been criticised for lacking both internal and external validity. Some claim that his participants could not have been fooled by the experimental set up into thinking that the shocks were real whereas others have argued that the situation in Milgram's lab was unlike any situation experienced in real life
- Milgram's study has been criticised for its ethics.
- Milgram failed to ask his participants for informed consent, he decevied them and made it difficult to withdraw
- They experienced considerable stress and potentional psychological harm
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