revision cards about Milgrams study into obediance.

  • Created by: Tom
  • Created on: 08-05-13 14:44


  • milgram advertised using a newspaper and direct mailing for 500 New Haven men to take part in a scientific study of memory and learning at yale university.
  • everyone was paid $4.50 simply for comming to the laboritory. the payment did not depend on the rest of the study.
  • the final group of participants consisted of 40 men aged between 20 and 50, who came from various occupational backgrounds.
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  • lab experiment reduces extraneous variables
  • all speech was scripted
  • the same person was the learner every time
  • Mr Wallace's responses were from a tape recorder and thus identical each time
  • all participants were paid $4.00
  • all participants were between age 20 - 50 
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ecological validity

this study had low ecological validity as it was conducted as a lab experiment in an artificial setting. people wouldn't usually get asked to electrocute a man they just met for repeating a word wrong from a list.

research validity

this study has high research validity due to the high levels of controls used by Milgram. this means that participants were acting truthfully and the research was unlikely effected by any extraneous variables

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Procedure summary

  • the participant would draw straws with Mr. Wallace. the participant would become the teacher and the learner was Mr Wallace. the participant watched Mr Wallace get attached to a shock machine and strapped down.
  • the participant as taken to a different room where they were shown the shock machine that ranged from 15 to 450 volts and an experimenter sitting at the back.
  • the participant would read a list to Mr Wallace who would repeat the list back, each time the learner gave a wrong response (following his script) the teacher was to provide a shock that intensified each time. 
  • Mr Wallace would follow the script eventually screaming asking for the experiment to stop until 330 volts where he would go quiet
  • if the teacher spoke to the experimenter he would reply using a sequence of 4 prods that intensified in commanding language.
  • this was a lab experiment with an independent design
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  • over half the participants (65%) went all the way with the electric shocks
  • only nine of the participants (22.5%) stopped at 315 volts
  • prior to the experiment Milgram asked 14 psychology student to predict the naive participants behaviour. the students estimated that no more than 3% of the participants would continue to 450. people who observed the experiment through one way mirrors were also shocked t the participants behaviour
  • the participants shown signs of extreme tension: most of them were seen to sweat, tremble, stutter, bite their lips, groan and dig their finger nails into their flesh also quite a few laughed nervously and smiled. three participants had uncontrollable seizures.
  • 84% of the participants felt glad to have participated and 74% felt they had learnt something of importance. only one person felt sorry to have participate.
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  • participant were deceived many times:  they were told it was a study into learning when it was about obedience, they also believed they were delivering shocks to someone when they weren't
  • the guidelines of protection from harm was broken as some participants had seizures
  • participants arguably didn't have the right to withdraw as the researcher at the back of the room prompted them to continue
  • the participants didnt give informaed concent as they didn't receive a briefing
  • the participants did however have a thorough debrief.
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Milgram put forward nine reasons for the results

  • the experiment was conducted at the prestigious Yale university giving the study credibility and respect
  •  The participant believed that the experiment was for a worthy purpose - to advance knowledge and understanding of learning processes.
  • The participant believed the victim had volunteered to be in the study and therefore has an obligation to take part even if the procedures become unpleasant.
  • the participant felt himself to be similarly obligated to take part in the procedures as planned.
  •  Being paid increased the sense of obligation
  •  As far as the participant was concerned, the roles of learner and teacher had been allocated fairly, by drawing lots.  Thus the learner could not feel aggrieved that he had been unfairly assigned his role.
  •   As most participants had never been a participant in a psychology experiment before, they had little idea about the rights and expectations of experimenter and participant. The situation was novel and there were no norms operating and nobody with whom to discuss ambiguities and doubts.
  • The participants had been assured that the shocks were ‘painful but not dangerous’. This short-term pain was balanced with the possibility of long-term scientific gain
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