Milgram 1963 - Behavioural Study of Obedience

  • Created by: ernily
  • Created on: 19-04-15 15:03

Milgram 1963 - Aims & Context

  • Obedience: A type of social influence that causes a person to act in response to a direct order from a perceived authority figure.
  • Adorno et al believed that the obedience required to perpetuate the holocaust was due to the German Authoritarion Personality:
    • Hostility to people of lower status.
    • Being servile to people of higher status.
    • Upholding the norms of society and intolerance of anything different.
  • In August 1944, Adolf Eichmann reported that his unit had overseen the deaths of approx. 4 million Jews in death camps.
    • Hannah Arendt (1963) stated: "It would have been comforting indeed to believe that Eichmann was a monster... The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him..." 
    • This implies that any ordinary human being could have committed such atrocities when ordered to do so.
  • The aim of Milgram's study was:
    • To create a situation that allowed him to measure the process of obedience, even when the command requires destructive behaviour.
    • To test the "Germans are different" hypothesis.
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Milgram 1963 - Procedures

  • Self selected sample of 40 males, aged 20-50 years old.
  • They thought they would be participating in a memory and learning test.
  • They were each paid $4.50, the payment didn't depend on remaining in the study.
  • It was a lab experiment at Yale University. Participants were greeted by 2 confederates; the experimenter and 'Mr. Wallace'.
  • The naive participant (NP) was always the "teacher" and the confederate was a "learner".
  • The learner was strapped to an electric chair type apparatus, controlled by the teacher in a separate room.
  • There was a shock machine with 30 switches which went up to 450V. If the learner provided a wrong answer, the teacher was ordered to shock them.
  • The shocks went up in incriments of 15V.
  • The experimenter had 4 prompts if the teacher didn't give the shock:
    • "Please continue."
    • "The experiment requires that you continue."
    • "It is absolutely essential that you continue."
    • "You have no other choice, you must go on."
  • The teacher was debriefed and interviewed after the experiment had ended.
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Milgram 1963 - Findings

  • Prior To The Experiment: 14 Yale psychology students estimated the 0-3% of the participants would administer the full 450V.
  • At 300V, 12.5% of the participants refused to continue.
  • 65% of participants administered the full 450V, meaning that 35% defied the experimenter.
  • "The participants were observed to sweat, tremble, stutter, groan, bite their lips, and dig their fingernails into their flesh."
  • Their behaviour indicated that they were acting against their own values.
  • In the follow up questionnaire:
    • 84% were glad/very glad to have taken part.
    • 15% were neutral.
    • 2% were sorry/very sorry.
    • 80% said that similiar experiments should be carried out.
    • 74% said that they felt they had learned something of personal importance.
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Milgram 1963 - Conclusions

  • The circumstances of the experiment created a situation where participants found it difficult to disobey.
  • The location of the study provided authority.
  • Participants assumed the experimenter had a worthy purpose, so should be followed.
  • Participants assumed the learner had voluntarily consented.
  • Participants didn't want to disobey; they felt obligated to continue.
  • The payment reinforced this obligation.
  • Participants believed the role of the learner was determined by chance.
  • It was an unusual situation for the NP, so they did't know how to behave.
  • Participants thought the discomfort was minimal and temporary.
  • Participants assumed the learner was willing to continue as they "played the game".
  • Participants were torn between the demands; not wanting to disobey, but not wanting to cause harm. The demands weren't equally as pressing.
  • The participants had very little time to resolve the conflict between the demands at 300V; the conflict was between two deeply ingrained tendencies.
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Milgram 1963 - Evaluating The Methodology

  • Method - Lab Experiment
    • Controlled environment, so control of extraneous variables.
    • Low ecological validity due to artificial setting and artificial task.
  • Reliability
    • Burger (2009) replicated Milgram's experiment and found similar results, suggesting that Milgram's study has high reliability.
  • Validity:
    • Orne & Holland (1968) claimed that the experiment lacked experimental validity because the participants didn't believe the study was real, so demand characteristics took place.
    • However, Milgram (1974) reported that 75% of participants thought the shocks were real.
    • Low ecological validity due to the unrealistic circumstances of the experiment, so difficult to generalise results.
  • Sampling:
    • Self selected - biased. The advert could have attracted certain types of people.
    • Androcentric: Can't generalise to women.
  • Ethical Issues:
    • Protection From Harm: Baumrind (1964) claimed that Milgram caused unjustified psychological damage, which should be weighed against the importance of the findings.
    • Deception: Participants were deceived about true aims of the study.
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Milgram 1963 - Alternative Evidence

  • Burger (2009) - Supports:
    • Partial replication of Milgram's study, however he didn't allow shocks past 150V even when participants showed willingness to do so.
    • He found 70% of participants were willing to push the 150V button.
  • Hofling et al (1966) - Develops:
    • In a hospital, nurses were told by a doctor, over the phone, to administer 20mg of Astroten to patients.
    • 95% of nurses did so, despite the number of rules that were broken in doing so.
  • Rank & Jacobson (1977) - Contradicts:
    • Nurses were asked, over the phone, to carry out an irregular order.
    • 89% refused, stating that they were not allowed to take orders over the phone.
    • However, drug used in this experiment was less "urgent" than drug used with Hofling et al.
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