Aim - To investigate the level of obedience when told by an authoritive figure to administer electric shocks up to 450v to another person
Participants - 40 men aged between 20 and 50 from New Haven, Connecticut, USA; paid $4.50; volunteer sample
Design - Controlled overt/covert observation - The pps were told the study was testing how punishment affects learning. They were the 'teacher' and the 'learner' was Mr Wallace, a confederate, who supposedly had a heart condition. The teacher had to administer electric shocks in increments of 15v up to 450v to the learner if they got an answer to a matching activity wrong and were given prods if they refused. From 0-300v, Mr Wallace gave vocal responses but he banged on the wall at 350v and gave no more responses after.
Results - Most pp found the situation to be real and showed nervousness in that they were sweating, stuttering and breathed a sigh of relief when it ended. Some pps asked about Mr Wallace's wellbeing and some simply left half way through the experiment. 12.5% (5 people) stopped administering shocks at 300v and 65% (26 people) went all the way to 450v meaning that only 35% were disobedient at some point.
Conclusions - Many people remained obedient, perhaps because they thought it was for the greater good due to the prestigious university, expensive equipment and a source of authority to abide by. Most pp suffered great stress, with three people even having seizures. It gives support that obedience is due to the power of the situation and not individual differences and supports the agency theory that they were working on behalf of an authority figure in an agentic state as we believe the responsibility will be shifted onto the authority figure.
Reicher & Haslam I
Aims - To create an institution where group inequalities can be manipulated; To see when people will identify with groups and display the social identity theory; To see the relationship between social, organisational and clinical factors in group behaviours; To develop a practical and ethical framework to investigate social psychology issues
Participants - 332 men responded to a newspaper advert; 27 remained after a screening process; 15 pp were chosen after a weekend assessment
Design - Experimental case study - Matched pairs design - PPs were sorted into five groups of three and one pp was randomly chosen to be the guard while the other two were prisoners. The guards were debriefed that they were responsible for the smooth running of the prison and had to respect everyone's basic rights but ultimately made the rules. The prisoners' heads were shaved and they all wore numbered orange uniforms. Day 1: the prisoners were told one person would be promoted to a guard if they displayed the right characteristics (permeability created). Day 3: one promotion was made and the prisoners were told no more promotions could be made (impermeability created). Day 5: a new prisoner - a trade union official - was introduced who provided cognitive alternatives and could lead the prisoners (insecurity created).
Reicher & Haslam II
Design Continued - Day 6: the prisoners were told there were actually no differences between the pps and that they were randomly allocated (illegitimacy and additional insecurity created). The pps were measured on levels of stress by daily saliva swabs measuring cortisol levels; social variables such as awareness of cognitive alternatives or perception of social identity; emotions recorded on likert scales and psychometric tests; compliance with rules; and through daily observations.
Findings - There was low social identity between the prisoners until the groups became impermeable, to contrast with the initially high social identity between guards which decreased over time, leading to ineffective leadership. The prisoners started a revolt on day 6 as they broke out of their cells and occupied the guards' quarters, lowering the social identity of both groups. A commune was formed between the groups but this failed on the first day as two prisoners broke communal rules. An ex-guard and three ex-prisoners made a new plan for a harsher guard-prisoner hierarchy but this could not be put into place due to ethical constraints and so the study stopped prematurely on day 8 instead of day 14.
Conclusions - Some group processes can lead to social identity but the breakdown of groups can lead to tyranny. It was also found that it is possible to run an ethical field study into social processes.
Aims - To investigate bystander apathy and specific explanations for helping behaviours; To find if diffusion of responsibility occurs in a field setting.
Participants - About 4,450 American people (55% white, 45% black) on a NY subway train weekdays between 11am and 3pm for two months in 1968
Design - Participant/covert observation - There were four teams of four general studies students completing the experiment, who all got onto the train seperately. Two girls were observers and sat outside the critical area to engage with other passengers, while a male model and a male victim stood. The victim staggered forward and collapsed, unresponding until they received help (if no one helped, the model would step in at 70 or 150 seconds). In 38 trials, the victim smelled of alcohol and carried a bottle in a brown paper bag and in the other 65 trials, the victim held a black cane and appeared sober.
Findings - In 83 trials, help came within 70 seconds (17% of drunk victims and 87% of cane victims received help within 70secs). The cane victim received spontaneous help 95% of the time but this was only 50% for the drunk victim and the median delay for the cane victim was only 5secs compared to 109secs for the drunk victim. Black victims received help less quickly and there was a slight same race effect.
Findings Continued - Contrary to earlier findings, as the group sizes increased, the response times also increased (positive correlation), however some people showed reverse behaviour and left the critical area when the victim fell. 90% of helpers were male and most comments came from people who didn't help (more often women) and mostly during the drunk condition.
Conclusions - A person who is ill is more likely to be given help than a drunk victim and they will also get it faster. This may be due to the higher cost of helping a drunk victim than an ill victim and the pps may have deemed the ill victim more deserving of aid. Social identity was displayed as there was a slight same race effect and a same gender effect. Diffusion of responsibility was disproved in the study as the amount of help increased with the group sizes but this could have been due to the confinement of the train as they couldn't escape the situation or due to the increased social desireability bias and cost of not helping. Pluralistic ignorance was shown in the comments that were made as people asked each other whether they should help or not (this also showed they were not helping for altruistic reasons).