Milgram - Obedience Study (1963)



  • Establish a basline measure of how obedient naive participants wpould be when asked to give an increasingly intese eletric shock to an innocent victim.



  • Sample of 40 volunteers             
  • Participants were told they and another man would take part in the study 
  • The 'other' person would always be the student 
  • The teacher (naive participant) tested the learner with a list of words 
  • Researcher was encouraging the teacher to shock the learner and increase it everytime a wrong answer was given 
  • Learners response was scripted and no actual shocks were recieved 
  • At vasripous points the learner complained of chest pains and refused to continue 
  • At 315v learner went silent
  • Researcher encouraged teacher to contiune dispite protesations


  • Milgram surveyed groups of people before conducting research
  • When asked what level of shock they thought participants would go to, most thought 140v
  • Those surveyed believed that very few would go beyond a very strong shock
  • What the people said and what they did were two very different things
  • Every participant went to at least 300v
  • 14 participants stopped between 300v and 375v
  • The remanin 26 went all the way to 450v


  • Social setting is a poweful determinant of behaviour
  • When the participants entered the experiment they felt they were part of the situation and found it difficult to break away
  • After obeying the first time it became harder to say no


  • In baseline experiment learner could be heared but not seen
  • When the learner could not be heard or seen, all participants went all the way


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