How Personality Affects Obedience- Individual Differences

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Locus of Control:

  • Rotter 1966
  • Internal Locus of Control --> people who feel they are in control of what happens to them- whatever happens to them is a consequence of their own behaviour
    -feel they can succeed in difficult and stressful situations
    -active seekers of information and achievement orientated- better leaders
  • High internals --> great deal of personal control over their behaviour, more likely to take personal resposibility for it- less likely to obey or conform
  • External Locus of Control --> helpless to control events
    -what happens to them is controlled by external factors e.g. luck or fate
    -relatively helpless in difficult or stressful situations 
    -more likely to be affected by authority figures with a high social status 
  • High externals --> perceive their behaviour as being caused more by external factors 


-Milgram (1974) found the 35% that disobeyed in his original study were more likely to have an internal locus of control. They also scored higher on measures of personality which shows personality is key in obedience- their internal locus of control allowed them to take responsibility

-Miller (1975) --> participants were told by an experimenter of high or low status to give themselves shocks. P's with external locus of control were more obedient when told by high status (internals were not affected). This supports the idea that personality type affects our levels of obedience

Comparisons and Credibility:

-Locus of control has typically been assessed by the Rotter Scale which provides a very general measure of personality. This does not allow us to accurately predict individuals' behaviour in the specific Milgram studies. This lowers credibility of the theory in explaining obedience

-Several internal and external factors are involved in Milgram's conclusions. In the study, it is hard to say which factors are most dominant- individuals resisting obedience may be strongly influenced by


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