CLASS NOTES Obedience to Authority (Milgram Experiments)
Obedience refers to changing behavior in response to commands from authority figures.
Conformity vs. Obedience (Milgram, 1969)
Conformity regulates the behavior of those of equal status.
Obedience occurs in a hierarchy where the person above has the right to give orders.
Conformity is imitation, obedience is not.
Obedience is responding to a direct order.
Conformity is a spontaneous behaviour.
Obedience is following orders
Conformity is a voluntary behaviour
Stanley Milgram’s Obedience Experiments
After WWII cruelty and obedience was considered to be traits peculiar to German people. Stanley Milgram set out to see if this was true.
Advertised as a memory and learning study.
Volunteers who responded to the advertisement met another volunteer in the waiting room called Mr. Wallace.
They were told that the purpose of the study was to look at the effect of punishment on memory. Punishment would be administered through a shock generator.
Voltage went from 15v-450v with corresponding labels. With each wrong answer, the voltage was to be increased by 15V.
However…the randomisation was rigged.
The volunteer as always the teacher and Mr. Wallace was always the learner.
Mr. Wallace was an actor and was not actually being shocked.
Mr. was strapped to a shock generator.
Volunteer gets a 45V sample shock.
Mr.Wallace followed a script of responses.
At some point, the teacher would turn to the experimenter for guidance.
The experimenter then said: “You have no choice, you must continue!”
Experts predicted 1-3% obedience.
What percentage of volunteers obeyed?
The Effects on Volunteers
Volunteers were visibly upset and suffered from extreme stress reactions.
Some turned away from the victim, some physically shook, and others laughed hysterically.
Processes Underlying Obedience in the Army
Normal moral guidelines are abandoned in favour of the authority figure.
Once authority figure sanctions acts of obedience they are automatically justified.
In ambiguous situations we trust authority.
Obedience becomes a habit or routine part of everyday life.
Portraying or thinking of victims of destructive obedience as being subhuman.
Explaining Blind Obedience
The Foot-in-the-Door Effect:
Gradual sequentialisation of actions leads to higher obedience rates.
Creates dissonance. Creates a commitment.
Blaming the Victim
Deficiencies in the victim’s character is blamed for their treatment.
Inhuman actions need to be justified.
The Comparmentalisation of Evil
People can view themselves as just a cog in a wheel.When participants only had to give the test, but someone else gave the shocks, obedience was 92%.
The Banality of Evil
Eichmann was not psychologically different, His motives were understandable.
He became obsessed with his job and never realised what he was doing.
Crimes of Obedience
“A Crime of Obedience is an illegal or immoral act committed in response to orders or directives from authority”
Deny Responsibility: Increases when:
a) Sense of powerlessness
b) Vicarious power through role orientation
c) Binding Forces: situational factors that tie the actor to the authority’s command.
Asserting Responsibility: Increases when:
A sense of personal responsibility for actions is adopted regardless of external forces.
Authority figure is not seen as legitimate.
Dispersion of authority.
Empowerment, education and training.
Slater (2006) used a virtual victim, that could be seen or heard or not. When she could be seen obedience was higher, Rates were similar to Milgram’s Original Study.
Burger (2009) wanted to know if people would obey in modern times. For ethical reasons, people were stopped at 150v level. Rates similar to Milgram’s original study.
Milgram Revisited: Can we still use Milgram’s‘Obedience to Authority’ Experiments to Explain Mass Atrocities after the Opening of the Archive Review Essay
Milgram’s ‘obedience to authority experiments’ are, together with Zimbardo’s prison experiment, one of the most famous but also most controversial studies ever conducted.1 Since its first publication in 1963, Milgram’s research has drawn the attention not only of scholars but also of the media, and the experiment as well as the results have been widely debated and referenced, but also heavily criticized.2 The 50th anniversary of his experiments and the opening of the Yale archives led to a new wave of publications and criticism.3 A lot of material on the Milgram experiments which until then had been hidden from scholarly and public scrutiny cast serious doubts on Milgram’s actual findings and their relevance. Between 2011 and 2015, no fewer than four international peer-reviewed journals published a special issue on Milgram’s experiments: The Psychologist in 2011, edited by Reicher and Haslam; Theoretical & Applied Ethics in 2013, edited by Herara; the Journal of Social Issues in 2014, edited by Reicher, Haslam and Miller; and Theory & Psychology in 2015, edited by Brannigan, Nicholson and Cherry. In addition, Gina Perry published a book on the Milgram experiments in 2012 entitled Behind the Shock Machine
The Milgram Paradigm After 35 Years: Some Things We Now Know About Obedience to Authority
Guided by the belief that we cannot make broad extrapolations from the obedience studies without first firmly establishing what has and has not been found using the paradigm itself, this article draws on 35 years of accumulated research and writings on the obedience paradigm to present a status report on the following salient questions and issues surrounding obedience to authority:
(a) How should we construe the nature of authority in the
(b) Do predictions of those unfamiliar with the obedience experiment underestimate the actual obedience rates?
(c) Are there gender differences in obedience? and
(d) Have obedience rates changed over time?
What have I learned from my investigations? First, that the conflict between conscience and authority is not wholly a philosophical or moral issue. Many of the subjects felt, at the philosophical level of values, that they ought not to go on, but they were unable to translate this conviction into action.
It may be that we are puppets-puppets controlled by the strings of society. But at least we are puppets with perception, with awareness. And perhaps our awareness is the first step to our liberation.
The author conducted a partial replication of Stanley Milgram’s (1963, 1965, 1974) obedience studies that allowed for useful comparisons with the original investigations while protecting the well-being of participants. Seventy adults participated in replication of Milgram’s Experiment 5 up to the point at which they first heard the learner’s verbal protest (150 volts).
Because 79% of Milgram’s participants who went past this point continued to the end of the shock generator’s range, reasonable estimates could be made about what the present participants would have done if allowed to continue. Obedience rates in the 2006 replication were only slightly lower than those Milgram found 45 years earlier. Contrary to expectation, participants who saw a confederate refuse the experimenter’s instructions obeyed as often as those who saw no model.
Men and women did not differ in their rates of obedience, but there was some evidence that individual differences in empathic concern and desire for control affected participants’ responses
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