Influences of individual differences

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What are individual differences?

In the context of independent behaviour, they are personal factors that make some people more able to resist pressures to conform or obey than others; gender, personality, education and culture.

Milgram argued people will obey an authority figure because of the situation they are in at the time. He found, that having the authority figure in close proximity to the person receiving orders made them more likely to obey, as did making sure the person following orders could not see the victim. However, obedience always fell short of 100% and so some factor other than purely the situation must affect obedience.

The effect of personality on independent behaviour

Locus of control

Rotter (1966) introduced the concept of locus of control as a type of personality.Internal locus of control; what happens to them is consequence of their own behaviour, and they can succeed in difficult or stressful situations. External locus of control; what happens to them is controlled by external factors, such as luck or fate, relatively helpless in difficult or stressful situations.

Holland used Milgram’s electric shock procedure to investigate the link between locus of control and obedience, found no relationship. Blass reanalysed Holland’s data and found, that people with an internal locus of control were more likely to resist obeying than those with an external locus of control. Participants with an internal locus of control especially resistant to obedience if they suspected they were being coerced or manipulated by the experimenter.

Schurz; Austrian participants who were asked to give increasingly painful bursts of ultrasound to a learner, were the highest level could cause skin damage, revealed no link between locus of control and obedience among the 80% of participants that went all the way to the maximum ultrasound level. However, participants who were classed as having internal locus of control tended to take more responsibility.

Blass reviewed many studies of locus of control and independent behaviour, and concluded that there is no clear link between the two as many studies supported a link and others found no link. There is evidence that participants with an internal locus of control are more able to resist pressures to obey than those with an external locus of control.

The effect of gender on independent behaviour

Milgram found that men and women were equally obedient

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