Milgram's study of obedience

Revision cards on Milgram's obedience study

'ps' means participants, qual = qualitative data, quant = quantitative data, obs = observations

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Background - sample

Background: Wanted to see if the events of the holocaust were due to the disposition of German soldiers or if the reason was situational.

Aims: To investigate what level of obedience would be shown when ps. were told to deliver electric shocks to another person

Methods: controlled obs.

Qual & quant data: obs, level of shocks reached, tape recordings, videos, photos, notes of behaviour

Design: independent measures

No IV, but DV: voltage went up to, actions and words - measured using observations

Sample: 40 males aged 20-50 from the new haven area, all white, from a range of backgrounds and occupations. Self-selected, advertised in newspaper with a $4.50 reward.

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Procedure - conclusions

Procedure: two confederates (experimenter - biology teacher with white lab coat & learner -accountant) ps introduced to learner & told study on punishment & learning. Drew lots & ps always teacher. Given sample shock of 45v & ps watched as learner strapped to chair & learner explained heart condition. Teacher told to read a list of word pairs to learn, after which would be tested. Each time learner makes a mistake a shock is given increasing by 15v.

Prods: please continue/go on * the experiment requires that you continue * it is absolutely essential that you continue * you have no other choice, you must go on *

Further prods: although the shocks may be painful, there is no permanent tissue damage * whether the learner likes it or not, you must go on until he has learned all the words correctly, so please go on *

Findings: all ps went to 300v, when 5 refused to continue. 9 ps refused between 315-375v. 26 ps went to 450v - 65%. Of these all showed extreme stress: sweating, trembling, crying, biting lips, groaning, digging fingernails into palm, laughing, violent convulsions. 

Conclusions: Milgram concluded that there was a situational explanation for obedience based on his findings.

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Milgram's reasons for obedience

1) prestigious university

2) seemed to be a worthy purpose

3) volunteered to take part

4) victim/learner volunteered to take part

5) been paid

6) thought role allocation random

7) ps unclear about rights of experimenter

8) no opportunity to discuss situation

9) under impression that shocks would not cause permanent damage

10) victim 'played the game' at first

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Validity, reliability & evaluation issues

Validity: measured what he meant to * low - controlled environment & not realistic task * high - ps believed it * low population validity - 40 white males from new haven *

Reliability: replicable, consistent measuring, standardised procedure, overall reliable. Used tape for screams & given a list of responses.

Ethics: deception - roles & shocks * no informed consent * did have RTW but prods made it difficult * distress & harm * debriefed - sent a questionnaire a year later * 

not generalisable - only American men who read that specific newspaper

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