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Milgram - Aims and Context

  • Importance of obedience in real life (eg. we need law and order in order to have harmonious communal living)
  • Attrocities of 1933-1945, Germans obeyed anti-sematic laws and killed millions of innocent people
  • Ardent (1965) behaviour of Eichman, 'terrifyingly normal' terms of obedience were used (Germans are different)
  • Adorno (1950) authoritarian personality due to harsh upbringing

AIMS: to investigate the tendency to obey other people who are in a position of authority. Would people obey to the extent of pain and harm, violating ethical and moral codes

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Milgram - Procedures

  • 40 males (volunteer sample) 20-50 and paid $4.50 even if they left
  • Niave p.p was introduced to Mr Wallace - drew a rigged lot to be learner and teacher
  • Learner was strapped into electric chair - electrodes placed on wrists
  • Teacher kept in adjoining room, shock machine, 30 switches 15-450V marked, slight, XXX ect. Shock given with each wrong answer
  • Learner gave 1 wrong to every 3 right, protests after 300V, pound on the wall, and then silence
  • Experimenter had 4 promts: please continue, the experiment requires you continue, it is absolutely essential you continue, you have no other choice you must go on, Special prods given
  • Debreifing afterwards, reunited 
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Milgram - Findings and Conclusions

  • 0%-3% expected to administer 450V
  • None stopped before 300, 5 stopped at this point
  • 65% administed 450V, 14 defied the authority at some point
  • Signs of psychological distess, 14 showed nervous laughter/smiling, sweating, stuttering, self harm, groaning

CONCLUSIONS: 'the phenomen of obedience must rest on the analysis of the particular conditions of which it occurs'

13 elements which contribute eg. standards of Yale being unimpeachable

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Milgram - Methodology

  • Design: lab experiment, control of extraneous variables, demand characteristics
  • Ethical issues: use of deception, psychological harm, right to withdraw
  • Reliability: Hard to replicate due to ethical issues
  • Validity: experimental - p.p did not believe the shocks were real, demand characteristics, only 2.4% believed the shocks were not real. ecological - confirmed in other settings, artificialness, set out to test obedience, this was clearly done
  • Sample: all male sample, volunteer sample
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Milgram - Alternative Evidence

  • Gender bias - Milgram (1974) women same level of obedience
  • Ecological validity - Hofling (1966) 21/22 nurses, Dr Smith, Astroten drug
  • Situation bias - Milgram (1974) increasing proximity, lab/office
  • Historical bias - Burger (2009) similar results, 70% willing to go past 150V 
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