Milgram's Agency Theory Evaluation

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Agency Theory Evaluation

Milgram's agency theory can explain events that happen in real life such as soldiers in Abu Ghraib prison torturing the prisoners. The soldiers were acting in the agentic state meaning they felt no responsibility for their actions as they were following orders from an authority figure.

People may feel moral strain which involves feeling that the action is going against their own moral code.

It accounts for why so many soldiers in WW2 followed orders without question. They saw themselves as agents for the person giving the orders, in this case Hitler 

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Hofling and Meeus and Raaijmakers studies both support the theory as they found that participants were obedient to an authority figure as they felt they were not responsible for their own actions. However, the theory does not take into account individual differences.

For example, a few participants in Milgram's original study refused to shock all the way and disobeyed orders.

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  • Supported by Milgram’s research when he showed that 65% of ordinary people would obey an authority figure, however, this study lacks ecological validity as the task of ‘giving’ electric shocks to a stranger is not something people encounter in everyday life.

  • The theory does not take into account other explanations for obedience such as strict parenting which could create an authoritarian personality 

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