Social Influence - Obedience

Milgram's variations
Why people obey

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  • Created by: Aliison
  • Created on: 24-05-10 20:33


Obedience is a result of a social influence when someone acts in response to a direct odrer from an authroity figure.

Milgram's study:

Aim: to find out whether ordinary americans would obey an unjust order from a person in authority to inflict pain on another person.

- 40 male volunteers were paid $4.50 and were deceived into thinking they were giving electric shocks to another person.
- The participants were told that the study was looking into the role of punishment in learning, the participant was always the 'teacher' whereas the confederate played the role of the 'learner' who's task was to memorise pairs of words.
- The participant watched the learner get strapped into the chair
- Every time that the 'learner' got a question wrong, the 'teacher' would give a shock.
- Shocks started at 15 voltes and rose by 15 each time until reaching 450.
- The experiment went on till 450 volts was given 4 times, or the participant refused to continue.

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Milgram continued

- All participants went to at least 300 volts
- 65% of participants went to the end (450volts)
- Most participants found the procedure stressful and whanted to stop. Showed verbal distress and one even had a fit. However they continued to obey.

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Milgram, AO2's


- The study was internaly valid, it tested what it set out to test, although it could be argued that there was demand as Orne&Holland suggested. However Milgram argued that the signs of stress that were shown by the participants could not have been 'acted out'

- Milgram's study was a Lab experiment and therefore it can't be generalized and lacks ecological validity.

- It is high in population validity as he used ordinary americans and his procedures have been replicated in many countries all over the world and have found simular levels of obedience.

- Ethical Issues; Some may argue that there was harm to participants. Participants were very distressed and may now believe they are capable of killing someone. Also they were decieved. However Milgram did questionnaires later and 74% said they had learnt from the experiance. All were de-briefed and followed up for many years and no sign of psychological harm was found

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Milgram's Variations

There are many variations of Milgram's experiment;

Original experiment - 65% obeyed.

Venue moved to seedy offices - Obedience fell when participants were relocated to less impressing surroundings - 47.5% obeyed.

Teacher and Learner were in the same room, - Obedience fell when participants were forced to not only hear but to see the pain caused by their actions - 40% obeyed.

Teacher given support from two other 'teachers' who refused to obey - Obedience fell when participants conformed to modelled disobedience (majority conformity influence) - 10% obeyed.

Teacher paired with an assistant who threw the switches - Obedience levels soared when someone else 'did the dirty work' - 92.5% obeyed.

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Why people obey

There are 3 main reasons why people obey;

Legitimate Authority
People are more likely to obey an authority figure that they see as legitimate and for whom they have respect. In milgrams study this was the 'man in white coat' who was respected as a researcher/scientist - In the seedy offices his authroity seemed less legitimate

Gradual Commitment
People are more likey to obey if they start off with something that seems small and insignificant and then progress to something more serious. In milgram's experiment this was starting at 15volts and increasing by 15 each time

Buffers are something that stops a person seeing/hearing/being confornted with the consequences of their actions. In Milgram this was the fact that the learner was in a different room.

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this is going to sound random but you know his variations.. is there any way that they contradict his original study?


Thanks Very very useful :)

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