Describe and evaluate one contribution to society from the social approach and one from the biological approach. (18) -- A grade

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Describe and evaluate one contribution to society from the social approach and one from the biological approach. (18)

Social psychology helps society to explain blind obedience. Agency Theory states that people act as agents for society to authority figures, obeying orders from people in power rather than acting autonomously. Milgram (1963) found this in his stud when participants were asked to administer electric shocks to a confederate, whom they believed to be a fellow participant. 40 males were used to the study at Yale University. All of the participants obeyed and gave a shock of at least 300 volts to the stranger. Overall, 65% obeyed to the full lethal voltage of 450. Thus, they obeyed the authority figure even though they were inflicting enough harm on someone to kill them. Hifling et al (1966) also found that nurses obeyed someone who they thought was a doctor even when what they were told to do went against their training. They used a fake doctor to telephone real nurses and all but one of the 22 nurses was prepared to administer an apparently dangerous dose of an unknown drug to a patient. Meeus and Raaijmakers (1986) also found that participants will obey and make stressful comments when someone was, as they thought, applying for a job. It seems people will obey even if it goes against their own code, usual behaviour and understanding of what is right and blindly obey. Understanding such issues about obedience and that the situation can affect whether people obey, helps to understand brutal acts such as the My Lai Massacre where an army company was ordered into a village in Vietnam during the Vietnam War and they killed 500 civilians, mostly unarmed womenm children and old men. They did not encounter a single enemy soldier. Their lieutenant's defence was that he was simply obeying orders from the Captain. Social psychology can offer possible explanations of blind obedience although ethical and moral argument about responsibility remain. 

A factor that limits the effectiveness of this contribution is that obedience is a complex issue. Factors such as the setting, the presence of an authority figure, what task the obedient person has to carry out are all important. It is hard to measure obedience in one way, and so therefore it is hard to measure validity. This means that a change in society based on Agency Theory may not be that effective because it may not target all factors


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