Report on Milgram's Study in Obedience to Authority

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Report on Milgram's Study in Obedience to Authority

By | Feb. 2013
Page 1 of 3
Just following orders. Milgram’s study in obedience to authority.

Summary.

This report aims to:
Provide information on Milgram’s study.
Detail why this is important and relevant to you.

Background.

Stanley Milgram (1933 - 1984) became a very well known psychologist due to one piece of work - his obedience studies (1961). Milgram wanted to see how obedient we are to authority figures and devised an experiment to do so.

Milgram tested a “teacher” to see how many electrical volts he would administer to a “learner” in what he advertised as a memory study. Every time the learner answered incorrectly the teacher administered a shock increasing in intensity for each incorrect answer. The shocks ranged in 15v increments from 15v to 450v. In the same room as the teacher was an “experimenter” who encouraged the teacher to continue the experiment. In later years Milgram made some variations to his original study and the results are detailed below.

The results.

In the original study:
26/40 participants administered the full 450v shock despite the fact that beyond 330v they could no longer hear a response from the learner. 35% of participants refused to go all the way.
368v was the average voltage which participants refused to go any further.

When the learner was closer to the teacher:
Fewer shocks were administered.

Presence of a plain clothed figure instead of an experimenter: 20% of participants went all the way.

Two experimenters contradicting each other:
The teachers stopped administering shocks very early on.

What does this tell us?

What this tells us is that we are very obedient to authority despite the potential risk of harming someone. Even after the learner stopped protesting to the shocks and went quiet, just over half the participants carried on as instructed. It also tells us that we are less obedient to non-authority figures and that when we can see the impact we are more likely to question what we are...