Social Psychology


Milgram's 1963 Obedience Study

Aim - To investigate how far an individual will go in obeying an authority figure and investigate whether German people are more obedient than ordinary people.

Method - 40 Ms (20-50) - responded to a newspaper advertisement - Paid $4.50 - conducted at Yale University - told they investigating the effect of punishment on learning. The experimenter was a 31 year old man wearing a lab coat, to make him look official. The teacher = the ppt and the learner = a confederate. Told to learn word pairs, for every wrong answer the ppt had to deliver an electric shock. The experimenter delivered the first (real) shock of 45V to check it was working. Teacher and learner were in seperate rooms. The shock voltage increased by 15V for each wrong answer. At 300V the learner becan to protest and at 315V he became silent. If the ppt objected they were given verbal prompts - "please continue" "you have no choice but to continue". The experiment stopped if the ppt objected 5 times or once they reached 450V. The ppt was debriefed at the end. 

Results - 100% of ppts adminstered shocks to 300V and 65% continued to 450v, the maximum Voltage. Ppts showed signs of discomfort, through lip biting and fits but continued obeying the experimenter.

Conclusion - It is possible for any individual to go against their moral code and cause harm as a result of obeying an authority figure

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Evaluation of Milgram's 1963 Obedience Study

Generalisability - Low because he used only male participants, living in a similar area and so it is not a representative sample, meaning the results cannot be generalised to the entire population.

Reliablilty - Standardised procedures, such as the prompts given, means that the study can be replicated to test for reliability. The study can be said to be reliable because the study has been repeated and variations have been conducted (Milgram repeated study at a run down office block), which have found similar results.

Application - Milgram demonstrated that anyone can harm another person when obeying orders from an authoritave figure, so it showed that steps needed to be taken to prevent another situation like that it Germany.

Validity - Being a laboratory experiment Milgram was able to control any extraneous variables to show cause and effect so it has experimental validity. Although it can be argued that because it took place at Yale University ppts felt like the study must be fine and so the experimental validity is reduced. The study lacks ecological validitiy because it didn't take place in a natural setting and the task of shocking a learner lacks mundane realism.

Ethics - Informed consent wasn't given and neither was the right to withdraw until they had objected several times. Ppts were decieved as they thought it was investigating the effect of punishment on learning. This was necessary for the experiment to be a success. The ppts were debriefed and Milgram was classed as competent to conduct the study and so it's ethics are increased.

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Hofling et al 1966

Aim: To investigate the doctor-nurse relationship and see if nurses would obey a doctor's order even if it went against their usual professional standards. 

Method: 22 f nurses (12 public and 10 private hospitals) recieve call (not hospital policy) from a doctor that they haven't heard of. Asked to administer 20mg of Astroten (placebo) to a 'patient'. The label states the maximum daily dosage is 10mg and the drug isn't supposed to be used on the ward. The doctor says he will sign for the drugs later. The conversation was scripted and standardised answers were prepared for potential questions. It was run between 7-9pm, when drugs are not usually administered and doctors aren't present. An observer was present on who would end the experiment if the nurse went to administer the medication, the nurse refused and ended the conversation or the nurse began to contact another professional for advice. The observer debriefed the nurses, interviewed them and offered psychiatric first aid. Shortly before questionnaires had been sent to 12 graduate nurses and 21-degree programme nursing students asking them what they would do in the same situation. 

Results: 21/22 nurses prepared to administer the medication whilst 31/33 of the nurses interviewed said they wouldn't. 11/22 knew it was an over dose whilst 15/33 mentioned this when explaining why they wouldn't administer the drugs. Most nurses said the circumstances weren't unusual.

Conclusion: Nurses will knowingly break hospital rules in a situation where doctors tell them to. Doctor's are senior to nurses and so appear to have more authority.

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Evaluation of Hofling's 1966 study

Generalisability - Low, a relatively small sample size (22) of all female nurses was used, which isn't representative of the entire population so results can't be generalised.The study was only conducted in the USA so findings can't be generalised to other cultures, however, a large selection of both priavte and public hospitals were used so it is a good representation of the American health care system. The study was conducted in the 1960s though so the findings may not be relevant to doctor-nurse relationships today.

Reliability - Standerdised procedures, such as the drug and dosage were used so the study can be replicated to test for reliability.

Application - Nurse training was changed so that they didn't blindy obey and held more authority themselves.

Validity - High eco validity because hospitals are a natural setting, they were real nurses and the task had some mundane realism. The nurses were not aware they were taking part in an experiment and so wouldn't have shown demand characteristics meaning it has exp validity. However, they were unable to control extraneous variables so the exp validity is lowered e.g obedience could be related to gender not doctor-nurse relationship.

Ethics - Low, no informed consent or right to withdraw but this can be justified by being necessary to the experiment. Some nurses were left distressed but they were debriefed at the end and psychological support was offered. Their jobs were'nt effected so the ethical issues are reduced. 

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Meeus and Raaijmakers 1986

Aim - To investigate destructive obedience in the everyday situation of a job interview.

Method - They used 39 participants, both male and female, between the ages of 18 and 55. They were split in to 2 groups (15 in the control and 24 in the experimental). They all had a minimum of Dutch high school education and responded to a newspaper advertisement offering $13 for taking part. It was conducted in a university and the participant was told the applicant had to pass a test of 32 oral multiple-choice questions to get the "job". They were told the job required the ability to handle stress so the participant had to test this by delivering verbal abuse. They had to make a negative comment everytime the applicant got a question wrong, ranging from "your answer is wrong" to "I think you'd be better suited to a lower function job". The remarks were displayed on a tv and when to say them. If the participant refused there were 4 verbal prods to encourage them to continue. The "applicant" had electrodes attached so that they participant believed they were recording his stress levels and the applicant objected several times to the negative comments. The stress remarks led to the applicant failing the test and not getting the job. The control group were allowed to deliver the insults whenever they wanted and stop when they wanted.

Results - 22/24 obeyed and made all the remarks in the control group and 56% did overall for both the conrtol and experimental groups.

Conclusion - Physical violence has more of an immediate impact than psychological harm.

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Evaluation of Meeus and Raaijmakers 1986 study

Generalisability - Although the sample size was quite small (39) both males and females from a wide age range were used so it could said to be representative of the population and thus the findings are generalisable. However, only Dutch participants were used so the findings cannot be generalised to any other culture, which reduces it's generalisability. 

Reliability - Standerdised procedures were used, such as the list of negative comments that the participant had to make so the study can be replicated to test for reliability.

Application - It helps to explain why people obey in real life e.g. bullying

Validity - Low ecological validity because the university wasn't a natural setting and the task lacked mundane realism. Standerdised procedures meant that extraneous variables could be controlled to show cause and effect. Psychological harm can also be considered to have more relevance to real life which increases its experimental validity. However, part of the aim of the study was to investigate whether obedience is different in another culture than America but as they changed the type of harm being delivered from physical to psychological it does not show whether the results were down to differences in culture or differences in the type of abuse.

Ethics - The participants were decieved about the aim of the study and the reality of the interview so they could not give fully informed consent but this is justified as being necessary to the experiment and all participants were debriefed at the end. 

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