Obedience Studies

Outlines of the key studies for Obedience

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  • Created by: Rajvir
  • Created on: 19-05-14 22:34

Milgram - Obedience to authority shocks


- Lab exp. - 40 paid volunteers - introduced to experimenter (authority figure) and other ppt Mr Wallace (confederate) - position of teacher and learner decided by names in hat - rigged so Mr Wallace was learner always
- Mr W sat in other room so ppt couldn't see him - communicated via headphones
- Ppt told by authority to ask Mr Wallace a set of questions on matching words - if answered incorrectly they were to administer shocks - level of shock increased for every wrong answer - shocks were false and pre-recorded (ppts didn't know this)


- 65% gave shocks to highest level
- 35% began then refused to continue
- 100% gave at least one shock


- People will obey authority figures - obedience high when others take responsibility

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Milgram - Obedience to authority shocks


- Highly controlled - standardised procedures - all ppts exposed to same conditions - minimises EVs - more sure of cause and effect - scientific evidence - can make generalisations
- Reliable results - replicated and showed similar findings


- Baumrind criticised Milgram for having many ethical issues - deception (told ppts exp. was on punishment and learning) - fully informed consent not given
- Orne and Holland criticised Milgram's study for lacking validity - lacked mundance realism - task wasn't a real life task - lacks validity - hard to generalise - demand characteristics may be present - lacks internal validity

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Milgram - Obedience Variations


Victim sat in same room - obedience reduced to 48%

Conducted in a rundown office instead of Uni - obedience reduced to 48%

Victims placed hand on shock plate by ppts - obedience reduced to 30%

Authority figure no longer present and instructions given over phone - obedience reduced to 20%

Another ppt refused to obey - obedience reduced to 10%

Non-uniformed authority figure - obedience reduced to 10%

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Hofling - Obedience in field


- Experimenter phoned 22 nurses who were working alone in hospital ward
- Called himself Dr Smith and told nurser to check drug cupboard for Astroten and ordered them to give 20 milligrams of the drug to patient X
- Broke several hospital rules - nurses shouldn't take orders over phone, unknown doctors, dosage said 10 but gave 20, unknown drug


- 21/22 nurses obeyed

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Bickman - Power of uniform with parking meter


- Field experiment in NYC
- Asked passers by to carry out orders: lend money to stranger for parking meter
- Did this in uniform then street clothes


- 92% lent money to stranger for parking meter when uniformed, 49% when in street clothes

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Bushman - Power of uniform with parking meter


- Bickman's method but FEMALE confederate in street clothes or uniform


- 70% obeyed when in uniform
- 58% obeyed when in street clothes
- Smaller difference than Bickman

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Sedikides and Jackson - Power of uniform at Zoo


- 153 adults, 55 children at zoo
- Asked not to lean on railings in a zoo keeper uniform (high strength) and ordinary clothes (low strength)
- Observed behaviour immediately after request and experimenter was present (high immediacy) and after the experimenter had left (low immediacy)


- Higher strength and higher immediacy produced higher obedience rate

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Gamson - Disobedience


- Put advert in newspaper asking paid volunteers to take part in discussion on standards of behaviour in community
- Ppts put in groups of 9 and asked to discuss situation where a fictional oil company had fired an employee as he had spoke out against them on tv and had an offensive life style
- Discussion was filmed, company only wanted ppts to argue in favour of sacking so didn't film counter-argument
- Ppts signed consent form allowing film to be shown in court at end


- 32/33 rebelled in some way
- 25/33 groups - majority refused to sign
9/33 groups threatened to take legal action for manipulation


- Rebellion against authority involved challenging 2 social norms
- Importance of group, time to consider and reactance all affect independent behaviour

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