Research into obedience

Research into obedience

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Research into obedience

Obedience refers to a type of social influence whereby someone acts in response to a direct order from an authority figure. The person recieving the order would not have behaved this way without being ordered to.

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Key study - Milgram (1963)

Conducted a study to investigate how obedient people would be in situations where obeying orders would mean breaking their moral code and hurting an innocent person. 40 american men, 20-50, recruited by advertisement, were told they were taking part in a memory test and introduced to Mr Wallace (confederate). Had to read a series of word pair to Mr Wallace who'd indicate the correct answer. If he got wrong, pps has to issue him with what they thought was an electric shock. 15v-450v increasing in 15v each time. Mr Wallace cried out and protested, at 300v went silent. If pps protested, experimentor gave verbal prompts. Obedience was measured by reactions and how high they went on the shock generator. Every pp gave at least 300v, 65% gave 450v (deadly). P's became highly distressed, sweating, pacing. Signs stopped when they stopped obeying. Most people will injure or kill a person when ordered to do so by an authority figure.

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Explanations - Legitimate authority

From this Milgram developed 3 main explanations for why people obey.

1) Legitimate authority - this refers to the idea that we are more likely to obey a person who has real, credible authority. The experimentor in Milgrames experiment was a Legitimate authority for many reasons. He wore a lab coat, which represents a uniform, his title such as 'professor' and the experiment took place in Yale University, a prestigious setting.

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Explanations - Graduated commitment

2) This refers to the idea that we are more likely to obey a person if the acts gradually move from the reasonable to the unreasonable. A good example of this Graduated commitment comes from Milgrams experiment. Shocks started off very small and harmless (15v) and gradually moved to 450v which can cause death. Orders which move from the reasonable to the unreasonable makes it difficult to tell when we begin to behave in an unacceptable manner.

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Explanations - Agency theory (agentic state)

3) This explains obedience through the idea that we have two states of consciousness. The autonomous state, where we are fully aware of our actions and are responsible for what we do; and the agentic state whereby we begin to act as an 'agent' for the authority figure. Milgram explains believes his pps may have obeyed due to the use of verbal prods in his experiment.

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