What has research told us about obedience in real life settings?

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Research examples of obedience in real life settings

Milgram’s research into obedience was a laboratory experiment that, while it showed shocking levels of obedience to an authority figure, lacked the realism of a real life situation. In real life, people obey orders in their everyday settings, for example nurses obey doctors, school students obey teachers, and everybody obeys policemen. The following research examples show obedience occurring in normal everyday life.

Hofling et al (1966) - obedience in a hospital setting

Nurses followed the instructions of a fake doctor even though it was against the hospital rules!

Hofling et al (1966) investigated obedience among nurses to an order from a doctor. They used real nurses in a real hospital, but the nurses did not know they were taking part in a research study. During their shift a researcher telephoned the ward, introduced himself as a doctor, and instructed the nurse to administer a patient with 20mg of Astroten which was a drug the nurses would have been unfamiliar with. Standard hospital rules prohibited nurses from taking telephone orders from an unfamiliar doctor, administering a drug that was not on a list of permitted drugs, and administering drugs without a signed order from a doctor. Despite this, 21 out of 22 nurses followed the fake doctor’s orders and gave the drug.

Before the experiment, Hofling had asked nurses whether they thought their colleagues


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