Obedience to authority is a type of social influence where someone acts in response to a direct order from authority. One behaves a instructed but does not, necessarily, change their opinion. This is similar to compliance as it involves public agreement yet private disagreement.
Obedience, however doesnt have to involve a group, the social influence is from a person of authority. In conformity there is no explicit demand to act certain way, but in obedience the order is usually direct. As does conformity, obedience helps society run smoothly - but there are many cases where obedience to an unjust authority have had disastrous outcomes, such as the Holocaust. Milgram investigated how far one would obey authority, even if it meant awful destruction.
AIM- to investigate how far people would be prepared to go in obeying and authority figure
METHOD- men aged 20-50 agreed to take place in a study on learning and memory at Yale uni. The experimenter was always dressed in a lab coat and the participant was introduced to another participant who was actually a stooge. They 'drew lots' to decide who was the 'teacher' and 'learner,' but the stooge was really only ever the 'learner.' the participant watched as the stooge was strapped into a chair and was hooked up to electrodes. The participant was then taken to a room with a shook generator which ranged from 15v to 450v, which had stickers near the volt number such as 'danger:servere shock' ect. The participant was to give shocks everytime the stooge gave the incorrect answer, and the stooge would give screams and then silence after 330v. I th participant hesitated, the experimenter would give various verbal prods.
RESULTS- Milgram asked staff, psychiatrists and students to predict how many participants would continue till 450v. They predicted most would refuse after 150v, and less than 1% go to 460v. In the experiment, all participants went to 300v and 65% went to the 450v.
CONCLUSION- ordinary people can follow orders even if it results in killing someone.
EVAL- raises many ethical issues, suh as deception, protection of participants and the right to withdraw
Situational factors affecting obedience
Milgram conducted several variations to his experiment -
LOCATION- many participants said they gave shocks because it was done at a high ranked uni, so Milgram repeated the experiment in a run down office. Obedience dropped to 47.5%, suggesting location is not a crucial factor in obedience, but does have som effect.
PROXIMITY OF VICTIM- when the learner was in the same room, obedience dropped to 40% and when the participant had to force the leaders hand on the shock plate, obedience dropped to 30%. The more direct they are to the victim, the less they obey but the obedience is still pretty high.
PROXIMITY OF AUTHORITY FIGURE- the experimenter left the room and obedience dropped to 20.5%. The participant pretended to give the shock or gave a lower one.
SOCIAL SUPPORT- participant was in a group of two other 'teachers' (stooges) and at 150v, one stooge refused, and the other at 210v the other also refused. Obedience dropped to 10%.
A PEER ADMINISTERS THE SHOCK- participant was paired with another 'participant' (stooge) who delivered the shock. The participant had to tell the stooge to deliver the shock or not. Obedience rose to 92.5%.
Why do people obey? - personal responsability
PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY- Milgram suggested that when we're obeying authority, we feel less responsible for our actions. We are in the AGENTIC STATE, acting as agents of the authority figure. Obedience levels are therefore high and this is evident in Milgrams study. When the peer administered the shock, obedience was very high as the participant felt even less responsible, but when the experimenter left the room the participant felt very responsible for their actions. The obedience dropped in this situation, and it is said the participant is in the AUTONOMOUS STATE, taking control of their behaviour and feeling aware of the consequences of their behaviour.
Why do people obey? - perception of legitimate aut
Milgram said for effective group function, individuals must defer to those of higher status in the group hierarchy. At an early age we are socialised to recognise authoritarian people so we accept they have the right to tell us what to do. The experimenter in Milgrams experiment was perceived as being legitimate as it was held at a prestigious uni and the uniform he was wearing. Bickman's litter picking experiment displays the effect of uniform on obedience.
By accepting payment at the start of Milgrams experiment and agreeing to take part in the study made the participants enter a social contract. Disobedience would mean breaking the social norm of being polite and accusing the authority figure of being immoral. Social norms and roles produce obedience in general and in Milgrams study.
Dispositional explanations of obedience to authori
Adorno published a book in 1950 aiming to explain the psychological basis of prejudice. Questionnaires were devised to measure prejudice and other characteristics in an individual. It was found an authoritarian personality is characterised by:
o hostility to people perceived to be of a lower status
o respect for people perceived to be a higher status
o a preoccupation with power
o blind respect for authority
The authoritarian personality is thought to be a result of harsh parenting and punishment for disobedience. Those, in Milgrams, who gave the highest shock level did tend to have stronger authoritarian personalities. Crutchfield found in 1955 that conformers tend to have authoritarian views and are generally submissive. As obedience requires compliance to social roles, privately the participant may disagree with the order, but under authoritarian watch is more likely to do as he is told.
Explanations of defiance of authority
SOCIAL SUPPORT- people who are able to share info and receive social support are more likely not to obey. Milgram found this in his study replication with two stooges.
ROLE MODELS- within each group, just one person is needed to rebell and most of the time, the rest follows. This is clear in Milgrams study where the two stooges model the behaviour and stop shocking the learner.
PERSONAL EXPERIENCE AND EDUCATION- one of Milgrams participants had experienced a concentration camp, and stopped shocking after 210v as she felt responsible for her behaviour. In Gamsons study, a participant resisted as he had heard of Milgrams study.
QUESTIONING MOTIVES- people begin to question the motives of people in authority. This is present in Gamsons study, but not in Milgrams as it was perceived to be of scientific value from the start.
LOSS OF FREEDOM- according to Brehm, we believe we have freedom of choice and if this is threatened, we disobey to restore a sense of freedom.
AIM- to investigate whether groups of people would defy an unjust authority
METHOD- a fictitious human relations company asked a group of participants, to discuss whether a recently sacked individual from the company was right to have been sacked. He was allegedly fired due to not being married to the woman he was living with, and so he was suing the company. The group of participants were being filmed. during the discussion, the coordinator came in, switched off the video camera and ordered some of the participants to be offended by the sacked man's behaviour. The camera was then switched back on and this was repeated several times. The participants were asked to sign an agreement stating the discussion could be used in court.
RESULTS- in 16 of 33 groups everyone rebelled. In 9 groups the majority rebelled and in the remaining 8 a minority rebelled.
CONCLUSION- support can help people defy authority
EVAL- it can be generalised to real life settings but it raises many ethical issues as many participants voiced feeling stressed and anxious. As a result, the researchers had to stop after 33 groups.