Obedience: Social-Psychological factors


Agentic State

Agentic state

  • Acting as agent of another.

Autonomous state

  • Free to act according to conscience.
  • Switching between the two - agentic shift.

Binding factors

  • Allow individual to ignore the damaging effects of their obedient behaviour.


Research support

  • Blass and Schmit found that people do blame the legitimate authority for the participant's behaviour.

A limited explanation

  • Cannot explain why some of Milgram's participants disobeyed or the lack of moral strain in Hofling et al's nurses.
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Legitimacy of Authority

Legitimacy of authority

  • Created by hierarchical nature of society.

Destructive authority

  • Problems arise, e.g. Hitler.


Cultural differences

  • Explains obedience in different cultures because reflects different social hierarchies.

Evaluation extra

  • The 'obedience alibi' revisited
  • Real-life crimes of obedience
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