Social and Cognitive Key Questions

  • Created by: Jodym
  • Created on: 06-02-19 10:41




Key Question: Obedience in Conflict – My Lai Massacre

The My Lai Massacre was during the Vietnam War when an Army platoon were given an order to go in a village that intelligence believed to be the HQ for the Vietcong and kill whoever was there. It turned out intelligence were wrong and the army officers were killing innocent civilians. This is a key issue in society as when given orders like this; people will often say it wasn’t their fault as they were simply following orders. This was a similar situation to the Holocaust.



Key Question: Is Eye witness testimony reliable?

EWT is when someone witnesses a crime or an incident and has to provide a witness statement. This statement could be used in a court of law as part of the prosecution or defence. It has been found in previous cases that witness testimonies have been relied on and as a result innocent people have been sent to prison or guilty people have been initially set free.


Agency Theory, Milgram (1974): The Soldiers were in their Agentic State. The orders from their perceived “Authority Figure” triggered a shift from their Autonomous state to their Agentic State where they’re not responsible for their own actions and have no free will. They may have experienced moral strain as a result of the orders from superior if they went against their conscience.

EVIDENCE: Milgram’s Study (1963) showed that 65% of people would go to 450 volts, the extent of killing someone if the order was given by a perceived authoritative figure and 100% would cause severe harm and go to 300 volts before their moral strain became too much. This explains why the soldiers killed so many people; it was because they were being told too by their superior. HOWEVER, agency theory does not explain why the soldiers scalped or ***** people in the village before killing them.


Social Impact Theory, Latané (1981): Three laws of behaviour: 1) Social forces. Strength – Authority figures, they have a higher power and position so soldiers feel the need to obey. Immediacy – order was given there and then with the generals present, the immediacy of the order makes the soldiers obey. 2) Psychosocial Law. The idea that the first source of influence has the most dramatic impact on people but the second, third, fourth etc. has less and less influence. The soldier’s orders came from one leader of the regiment so maximum impact to cause them to obey. 3) Divisions of Impact. Social Force gets spread out between all the people it’s directed at. The more people the less pressure each one feels. This is known as Diffusion of Responsibility. Soldiers may have felt less responsible for their actions because there was a larger diffusion of responsibility and therefore obeyed.


Social Identity Theory, Tajfel and Turner (1979): In group favouritism. 1. Social Categorisation - categorise themselves into their “in” group and the My Lai


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