Social Psychology:
Obedience
Key Study: Milgram
(1963)
Everyday Examples of
Obedience
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Student sitting still and quiet in class when
teacher is present.
Following the orders given to you by a
parent.
Doing what your boss tells you to do.
What do all of these
have in common?
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The use of authority that is based in power.
Without power authority usually has little
influence, and therefore the authority
figure is of low standing.
Power: Some ideas
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Weber: 3 sources of power Charismatic (such as a popular leader may
have)
Traditional (such as parents and elders in a
society have)
Rational-Legal (such as police officers have)
Milgrams’Agency Theory
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People need to be able to switch between
two states - Agentic and Autonomous - in
modern organisations and groupings.
We are trained in these two states from
early socialisation.
Thus the imperatives about the rightness of
obedience are created.
The Agentic State
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When in the Agentic State we redefine the
meaning of the situation.
It is created through the use of a social
bond. This occurs through The sequential nature of the action.
The use of an implicit social contract.
Feelings of anxiety if we break the bond.
Why do we not obey?
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Past experience
Being in an Autonomous State
Disregard for the authority source
Disregard for the authority figure
Questioning the motives of authority figure
Exposure to disobedient models
The Procedure
The participant was paired with a colleague of Milgram (the
stooge)
Thought they were taking part in an experiment on Memory /
Learning
Electric Shock machine
slight/severe/danger: severe shock
Volts ranged between 15 - 450 volts
The Procedure
The participant (teacher) given a mild electric shock
Then stooge wired up to the electric shock machine in next room
The experiment began
The
TASK
e.g. blue sky, green grass, red balloon
Teacher read series of word pairs
Learner had to memorise these
Teacher then reads out one word
e.g. Green …..
Learner to respond with the ‘pair match’
If a mistake was made
Teacher told to give electric shock to learner
Rising by 15 volts each mistake
from 15 volts to 450 volts
What happened?
The participants shook, trembled, and
sweated
They were pressed to continue
“You must go on”
“The experiment is important”
“Please continue|”
FOR MORE INFO...
Read this up in any general text
e.g. R Gross, The Science of Mind & Behaviour
What happened?
The learner shouted and yelled
He could be heard through the wall
He remained silent after 300 volts
How many went to 450
volts?
65% of participants went to 450 volts!
They would have followed orders
and
Killed the stooge for making too many
mistakes!
Remembering
Methodology ….
What was the dependent variable?
The DV
The level of shock the participant stopped
at!
Was this experiment
ethical?
What do you think?
IF YOU WERE A MEMBER OF THE ETHICS
COMMITTEE
Would you let Milgram do it again?
Did the ends justify the
means?
Was the knowledge gained worth the pain of
the participants?
How can we decide this question?
Why did Ps Obey?
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Location of study.
Worthy purpose of study.
Leaner had volunteered.
P made social bond with E.
Payment.
Ps told that shocks were not painful.
Concerns
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Ethics (deception, harm to Ps, informed
consent)
Ecological Validity (does the study tell us
anything about obedience in everyday life?)
Social Determinism (the social environment
creates obedience in the P)
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milgram[1].