The Social Approach

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The Social Angle

The social approach is concerned with how people affect one another. We are affected all the time by the social situation in which we find ourselves. The social situation is the result of the influences of individuals, groups and our wider culture and society. An example would be obedience. Our culture exerts more subtle influences of which we might not normally be aware. Culture is a set of beliefs and norms characterised by a group of people.

 Obedience: Following direct orders of a person of authority.

Destructive Obedience: Following orders that lead someone to get hurt.

 The attention of psychologist turned to destructive obedience following the Holocaust in 1940s.

Milgram (1963)

Aim: To investigate how obedient people would be in a situation where following orders would mean breaking participants’ moral code and harming another. 

Method: 40 volunteers (males aged 20-50) took part in the experiment for a fee of $4.50 in the university. They were told they were either a teacher or a learner and introduced to Mr Wallace (a confederate) Milgram ensured the participants were always the teacher and Mr Wallace was always the learner.  The learner was strapped into a chair wired up to a shock generator and was shown a shock. Mr Wallace was positioned opposite side behind a screen. An experimenter dressed in a lab coat was present in the room and issued orders whenever Mr Wallace gave a wrong answer; he was given an electric shock for every wrong answer but in fact he wasn’t attached to the machine. The shocks ranged from 0-450 volts. Past 300 volts Mr Wallace’s screams went silent. Whenever the participant protested the experimenter said the please go on, its essential to continue. 

Results: 100% of participants gave Mr Wallace 300 volts and 65% gave the full 450 volts to a suppozedly dead Mr Wallace at this point. Most of the participants protested, some wept and some even had a seizure due to the stress. In the follow up interview they all felt they couldn’t stop. The responsibility was on the experimenter.

Milgram’s liberating effects of group pressure (1965)

Aim: To test whether the rate of obedience changes in Milgram’s original study if a rebellious or obedient participant is present. 

Method: 80 male participants (20-50) took part in one of two conditions. Those taking part in each condition were matched for age and occupation with those in Milgram’s original study. 1st condition – partiants worked with two rebellious stooges. At 150v one refused to give any further shocks and the other quit at 210v. 2nd condition – the obedient stooges gave shock without protest and offered mild rebukes when the participant expressed discomfort.

Findings: The rebellious stooge condition had 50% quit past 150 and only 6/40 gave the full 450v. In the obedient condition, 29/40 went to 450v.

Conclusion: the behaviour of fellow participants made a difference to the rates of obedience. Rebellious stooges made a greater affect than obedient stooges.




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