Milgrams Experiment

  • Created by: Jodiec53
  • Created on: 11-12-18 17:32


Milgram (1963) was interested in researching how far people would go in obeying an instruction if it involved harming another person. 

Stanley Milgram was interested in how easily ordinary people could be influenced into committing atrocities, for example, Germans in WWII.

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40 American males aged 20-50, volunteers. Met by confederate experimenter – grey lab coat – appearance of authority. Introduced them to confederate participant – told would either be teacher or learner but real participant was always teacher. Punishments would involve increasingly severe electric shocks. Adjoining rooms – learner strapped to chair and attached to electrodes – teacher gave shocks from other room. 15 volts up to 450 volts. Read out series of paired-word association tasks – received pre-recorded answers from learner – told to give shock after each wrong answer, went up to next highest shock. At 150 began to protest and demand to be released. Protests became more inconsistent – at 300 refused to answer any more, said had heart problems that were beginning to bother him. 315 -  screamed loudly, 330 – heard no more. Anytime teacher seemed reluctant to continue – encouraged to go on with verbal prods. Told shocks will not cause lasting tissue damage.

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62.5% went to 450. 100% went up to 300. Participants showed distress – sweating, twitching, verbally attacking experimenter – 3 had uncontrollable seizures. Some should little/no signs of discomfort – concentrated dutifully on what they were doing.

Milgram did more than one experiment – he carried out 18 variations of his study.  All he did was alter the situation (IV) to see how this affected obedience (DV)

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Ordinary people are likely to follow orders given by an authority figure, even to the extent of killing an innocent human being.  Obedience to authority is ingrained in us all from the way we are brought up.

 People tend to obey orders from other people if they recognize their authority as morally right and/or legally based. This response to legitimate authority is learned in a variety of situations, for example in the family, school, and workplace

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Milgram paradigm – established basic method for studying obedience, adopted by many subsequent researchers. Subsequently conducted 19 variations varying different aspects. Practical applications – hoped that Milgram's findings would help form strategies to reduce destructive blind obedience. – not much changed. Type of study – no Iv so controlled observation. His variations considered experiment. There are also Ethical considerations and Methodogical criticisms 

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Ethical Considerations

Ethical Considerations Study raised several ethical issues. Psychological harm: exposed participants do severe stress – physical reactions. Against – 2% had regrets about taking part, 74% said they learnt something useful. Thorough debriefing and all 40 received psychiatric assessments year later – none showed signs of long-term damage. Right to withdraw: no explicit right to withdraw given before study, attempts were get with verbal prods encouraging them to continue. – Milgram argued they did as 35% did Deception/informed consent: said study was concerning memory and learning – actor, did not give informed consent – did not know true purpose of procedure. – defending use of deception by debriefing. Deception necessary for participants to behave realistically.

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Methodological Criticisms

Internal validity: criticised for lacking internal validity as believe participants delivered shocks because they knew they were not real – 75% believed them to be real. – extreme physical responses also suggests this.

External validity:                                                                                                             Androcentrism: only males used – cannot be generalised to females. Females may be less obedient to orders with destructive consequences. Research suggests opposite – may be more obedient because gender roles dictate that they may be submissive, especially to assertive females. Similar study done with puppies – 100% women went up to 450 shocks, 54% males. •Cultural bias: only American participants – not generalisable to other cultures, varying levels of obedience found across cultures – cultural differences regarding authority. Highest – Spanish – 90%. Lowest – Australians – 28%.                                                                                   •Historical validity: high rate of obedience due to American culture being authoritarian and obedient in 1960s, doesn’t reflect levels today.                                                              •Ecological validity: unrepresentative of real-life occurrences. Holfling 1966 – see if nurses would obey orders from unknown doctor to extent that could risk harm. Phoned nurses to give 20mg unfamiliar drug to patient and would sign authorisation form later – box said maximum dose was 10mg. 21/22 nurses obeyed, control group asked what they would do – 21/22 said they wouldn’t obey without authorisation or exceed max dose.

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