OCR Psychology Core Studies


Psychological Themes in Core Studies


Key Theme

Classical Study

Contemporary Study


Response to people in Authority

Milgram (1963) Obedience

Bocchiaro et al (2012)

Disobedience and whistleblowing

Social (2)

Response to people in need

Piliavin et al (1969) Subway Samaritan

Levine et al (2001) Cross-cultural altruism



Milgram - Obedience (1963)                                              Key Theme: Responses to people in Authority


Milgram told psychology students that he was going to conduct an experiment where people would think they were giving electric shocks to another person. They would be led to believe that the shocks were very severe. They predicted that 1.2% of participants would go to 450v.


Design – Lab Experiment, Independent Measures. DV: Obedience. Obedience was operationalised as the maximum voltage given in response to the orders.

Sample – 40 males, aged 20-50, drawn from New Haven. Obtained through a newspaper advertisement (self-selected)

Materials – Shock generator

Procedure – Ppts had to increase the intervals of the generator from 15-450 volts to shock the learner. If they hesitated / refused, the experimenter would then say, “Please go on”, “The experiment requires that you continue”, “It is absolutely essential that you continue” and “you have no other choice, you must go on.”

Results: 65% (26/40) ppts obeyed all the way to 450 volts. Collected qualitative and quantitative data.    


1.)    It is the situation that produces extremely strong tendencies to obey.

2.)    The situtation generates extraordinary tension and emotional strain.







Evaluation of Milgram:

·              Research Methods – Laboratory experiment  

ü  Highly controlled so it was possible to eliminate many EXTRANEOUS VARIABLES. 

ü  Clear dependent variable (obedience)

ü  Highly standardised procedure so easy to replicate.

û  Realism of the environment – Hard to make a lab feel like real life

û  Realism of the task – Teachers don’t ordinarily shock learners

û  Did not have an independent variable – but study did provide a ‘baseline’ for variations that took place.


  • Data – Quantitative data & Qualitative data

ü  Easy comparison of % of participants who administered shocks to each level (e.g. 100% to 300v, 65% to 450v​

ü  Allowed comparisons between the study variations​

ü  Qualitative data consisted of descriptions of how teacher behaved and what they said. ​

ü  Qualitative data allows us to understand the feelings as they administered the electric shocks. This data reveals that they may have done what the experimenter wanted them to

do, but they did it without pleasure.


  • Ethics –

ü  Study carried out before ethical guidelines were in place.

ü  They could withdraw (35% did) ​

ü  Milgram could not have known how much anxiety the participants would feel


û  Participants consented but they were deceived as to the true purpose of the study (No informed consent)

û  Everything they heard from the experimenter




really good