Milgram Core Study

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Milgram Aims and Context

  • obedience is following a direct order and ensures the smooth running of society.
  • in some cases it is necessary- following the law.
  • in other cases it is destructive, e.g. WWII where millions of jewish people were killed on command in nazi concentration camps.
  • Adorno defined the Authoritarian Personality (people who bowed to those who had a higher authority)
  • Milgram wanted to investigate the "germans are different" hypothesis, which supposed that Hitler couldn't of carried out his plans without people already willing to cooperate and that Germans were inherently evil.
  • he designed a study into obedience using electric shocks. he asked middle class people what level they though the administer of shocks would go up to, 80% said they would stop at the strong shock level which was 135-180 volts.
  • Milgram planned to take his study to Germany after America but his results were already so shocking that he didnt need to as the hypothesis was clearly untrue.
  • Milgram aimed to test the "Germans are different" hypothesis, which was a belief that obedience can be explained by dispositional factors(genes for example).
  • In order to test his hypothesis he used american citizens to see how they reacted when inflicting suffering on others.
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Milgram Procedure

  • Milgrams sample was 40 American men(20-50 years). They volunteered after seeing an advertisement to do a "memory study".
  • he conducted a lab experiment where he first introduced a naive participant to a confederate.
  • The researcher outlined the need to examine effects of punishment on learning.
  • one person must be the learner and the other the teacher, they drew lots to determine who would take what role, this was rigged as the confederate was always the learner.
  • they were taken to adjacent rooms and the teacher would see the learner being strapped to an electric chair which was connected to a shock generator in the teachers room.
  • the teacher was then taken to that room and showed the shocks which ranged from 15-60 slight shock to 435-450 potentially lethal.
  • the lesson was a word association task. The teacher read out a series of word pairs which the learner had to answer by pressing one of four switches. If the learner got the answer wrong, the teacher would have to administer a shock each time they gave an incorrect answer the voltage would increase by 15 volts.
  • The learner has pre-determined responses(ratio 3:1). once 300 was reached the learner would act like he was in pain and refuse to answer questions.
  • The teacher were given prods by the researcher such as "please continue" and were told to continue to administer shocks and treat a no answer as an incorrect answer.
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Milgram Findings and Conclusions

  • Quantative data- 65% of participants went to 450 volts(maximum) the rest went to atleast 225. however these results do not take into account the participants feelings during the experiment.
  • Qualitative data- participants showed signs of nervousness including; biting their lips and stuttering. 3 people suffered seizures possibly due to stress.
  • 14 out of 40 showed nervous laughter and most were convinced that thay were administering real shocks.
  • The experimenter wass surprised by how far they went and believed their obedience was very strong.
  • Questionnaire- 84% said they were glad they participated and 74% said they had learnt something of lasting value.
  • Milgram concluded that people are shockingly obedient to destructive orders and if told to do so would kill a stranger.
  • Even though participants showed reluctancy and suffering they still obeyed.
  • such strong obedience could be attributed to various factors. Including: A prestigious uni- "experiment was worthy". They were isolated and had no one to turn to, they wanted to stop inflicting pain but also wanted to respect authority.
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Milgram Evaluation

  • Lab Experiment- control of extraneous variables e.g. noise.

the link between IV and DV can be seen= the reason participants obeyed was due to the orders to continue were given.

Environment was artificial, administering shocks isn't an everyday task- lacks ecological validity. Difficult to relate to obedience in real life.

  • Ethics- deception, the participants weren't told the real purpose of the study however Milgram deemed these issues as minor and addressed the participants psychological state at the end(questionnaire) suggesting that the negative psychological effects of participanting were outweighed by the findings importance.

Right to withdraw- Participants were prompted "the experimenter requires you continue" however a selection of participants did leave meaning that their desire was granted.Unaware that the learner was a confederate and that it was a study of obedience however if the true aims were told, then the study would of been invaild as they wouldn't of acted naturally.

  • Reliable- Milgrams study was standardised which means its easily replicated.

Burger replicated this experiment and supports Milgram as 70% were willing to administer high level shocks. This provides reliability as the results were consistant.

  • Valid- the obedience could of been high due to the artificial environment as the participants may have not thought the shocks were real (this is questionable).
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Milgram Alternative Evidence

  • Sheridan and King

Similarly high levels of obedience using REAL shocks on dogs.75% of people delivered maximum shock .Supports, however, there is less validity as it was dogs not humans.

  • Hofling et al

Found obedience occurs in real life situations.

nurses were asked to give a drug to a patient by an unknown doctor which wasn't allowed. 95% obeyed. Supports milgram as its highly reliable and valid which is unlike Milgrams lab setting.

  • Rank and Jacobson

Asked nurses to carry out an irregular order but this time 89% disobeyed as they spoke to peers and knew the drug being administered.

contradicts Milgrams work- doesn't add reliablity.

Ecologically valid as it was carried out in a real life situation.

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