Hofling et al (1966)

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Hofling et al

Aim - to see whether nurses would obey an instruction from an authoritative figure even if it meant going against hospital guidelines and patient safety


  • Field experiment
  • 3 hospitals
  • Boxes of placebos (labelled 5mg astroten, max daily dose 10mg) were places in wards
  • 22 nurses
  • Recieved a phone call from an unknown "doctor" (confederate) - asked to give 20mg (overdose) of astroten to his patient as he was in a hurry
  • He said he would come and observe the patient and sign the authorisation as soon as he could
  • To go through with the request the nurses would be breaking 3 rules - 1.Drug above daily dosage of 10mg 2.Drugs should only be administered after written authorisation is obtained 3.The nurse should be absolutely sure that the Dr is a genuine Dr


21/22 obeyed the doctors orders and administed the overdose of astroten. When debriefed after the experiment, 11 of the nurses said that they had not noticed the dosage discrepency.

A survey was done before the experiment on 33 graduate and student nurses where they were asked if they thought the nurses in the experiment would follow these orders. 31/33


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