Definition of obedience
Obedience is when you behave as instructed, usually in response to an individual rather than group pressure. This usually takes place in a hierarchy, where the person issuing the order is of a higher status than the person obeying the order. Obedience occurs because the individual feels they have little choice: they cannot resist or refuse to obey. It is unlikely to involve a change in private opinion.
Differences between conformity and obedience
Conformity Obedience Participants deny conformity Participants embrace obedience as an explanation of their behaviour Can occur between people of equal status as well as within a hierarchy Occurs within a hierarchy The emphasis is on acceptance The emphasis is on power The behaviour adopted is similar to that of the group The behaviour adopted differs from that of the authority figure The requirement to yield to group pressure is often, though not always implicit The prescription for action is explicit
Milgram's obedience study
Aim : To find out if ordinary Americans would obey an order from a authority figure to cause pain to another person.
Procedures: All the participants were American males, they were recruited by placing an advertisement in a newspaper. The study took place in Yale university. The experimenter told the teacher that it was about punishment on learning. The teacher had to read word pairs out to the learner, and then ask them a question. If they got it wrong, they had to administer a shock. The shocks started from 15V and the maximum was 450V. The shocks moved up in 15V steps. No shocks were actually administered. Is the teacher hesitated, the experimenter would prod them. Findings: Everyone went to at least 300V,65% went to 450V,most teachers verbally dissented, but continued giving shocks. Many participants showed signs of extreme anxiety. Conclusion: the study demonstrated the power over individuals. Under certain circumstances, its good people in an evil environment – before the experiment Milgram thought 1/1000 would go to 450V.
Variations of Milgram's study
Making the learners pain more obvious à voice feedback- obedience dropped to 62%
Teacher and learner in the same room - reduced to 40%
Teacher has to force the learners hand onto a plate for the shock - 30%
Change the venue to a seedy office - 28%
Experimenter was an ordinary member of the public - 20%
Teacher given support by two other teachers who refused to continue - 10%
Teacher had an assistant who throws the switches when asked by the teacher - 92.5%
Evaluation of Milgram's study- Internal validity
Orne and Holland criticised Milgram's study for two types of validity; internal and external.
Internal validity is whether the experimenter measured what they were supposed to measure, e.g. obedience. Orne and Holland said that participants did not believe that they were actually giving the learner a shock, so they just carried on to please the experimenter. This is demand characteristics. They argued that there were many clues to give it away, e.g the experimenter remaining calm when there was no response from the learner. Milgram defended this by showing Orne and Holland short video clips of the teachers under stress, which can’t be acted. He also sent out post questionnaire and interviews, which showed that 56% thought the shocks were definitely real, and only 2.4% strongly felt that they weren’t real. Sheridan and King did a similar experiment on obedience, using puppies. They did use real shocks, and their rate of obedience was 75%. These results are similar to Milgram's, which supports milgrams internal validity.
Evaluation of Milgram's study- external validity
Orne and Holland criticised Milgrams study for two types of validity; internal and external.
External validity: is if the findings can be generalised to other situations (ecological, temporal validity) Milgram's procedures have been repeated in other countries with similar results, and there is much evidence that high obedience can be found in other experiments apart from Milgram’s.Hofling carried out a study that showed that obedience does occur in real life situations. He used 22 nurses,each nurse got a call from a unfamiliar doctor, who asked them to administor 20mg of a drug called Astrofen. Findings: 21/22 nurses obeyed until stopped by another nurse who was accomplice of the researcher. However, Rank and Jacobson were concerned that nurses has no knowledge of the drug and no opportunity to seek advise. They repeated the procedure but using the drug valium & the nurses could speak to other nurses.Results showed that only 2/18 nurses proceeded to prepare the medication. This shows that Hoflings study lacked ecological validity.
Why do people obey?
Milgram identified 3 main features of the situation that were conductive to obedience:
Legitimate authority - we feel obligated to those in power, because we respect their credentials and assume they know what they are doing. Legitimate social power is held by those authority figures whose role is defined by society, which usually gives the person the right to exert control over the behaviour of others & others usually accept it. Graduated commitment - Once people comply to doing an easy, trivial request, they find it more difficult to refuse to carry out more serious, escalating requests. ‘ the foot in the door affect’ Agentic state - Milgram’s agency theory states that people operate on two levels,which are: as autonomous individuals behaving voluntarily & aware of the consequences of their actions, and on the agentic level seeing themselves as the agents of others and not responsible for their actions. Basically, this means the participants shift the responsibility to the authority figure (agentic shift)