Thinking like a Psychologist - Evaluating the Core Study
What are the strengths and weaknesses of the method used?
The method used by Milgram was the laboratory experiment. The main advantage that Milgram had with this method was the amount of control he had over the situation. He controlled what the participants saw, heard and experienced and was able to manipulate their behaviour through what they were exposed to. This method also allowed accurate measurement of variables and the clear standardised procedures meant that replication was possible. The disadvantages of this method include low ecological validity and the influence of demand characteristics on the participants and it could be argued that they were behaving in the way that they thought was expected of them rather than producing natural behaviour. Milgram has also been heavily criticised regarding the ethics of this study (see below) . Was the sample representative?
Milgram’s sample was a self-selected sample of 40 males obtained through advertising. This could be regarded as being a biased sample as they were all male American citizens. They were also volunteers and the majority of the population is unlikely to volunteer to take part in research and those who do may be atypical of the target population in some way. Hence there may be problems generalising from these results. What type of data was collected?
The data collected was quantitative in that it involved measuring participants’ obedience level, numerically, in terms of how far up the voltage scale they were prepared to go. This type of data has the advantage of being easy to compare and statistically analyse. However, Milgram included no qualitative descriptions of why the participants obeyed or how they felt during the experiment although there are a few brief descriptions of participants’ behaviour during the experiment. Does this study have high or low Ecological Validity?