Factors Involved in Milgram's Obedience Study

Topics: Milgram experiment, Stanford prison experiment, Stanley Milgram Pages: 7 (1731 words) Published: November 6, 2014
Discuss three of the factors involved in obedience according to Milgram, and critically evaluate the research that led him to these conclusions. Cite at least one other study in your discussion. This essay will give a brief description of Milgram’s obedience study. It will then discuss the three factors involved in obedience according to Milgram. The results of his study will then be evaluated and the other studies that have tested obedience will be discussed. To summarise, a short conclusion will be made. During the second world war during Hitler’s dictatorship, mass genocide occurred, killing nearly six million innocent Jews across Germany (Gross, 2012). It happened as German citizens, Nazis were complying with his commands. Stanley Milgram 1963, decided to investigate this theory and the results were surprising. The aim of Milgram’s study was to investigate the extent of harm participants would inflict on another innocent member of society when instructed to do so by an authority figure (Gross 2012). Despite his peers’ predictions, 65 per cent of participants gave an electric shock to a confederate of 450 Volts (Gross 2010). Luckily, this deadly shock was not real, but the intention remained. Milgram was criticised in many areas of his research despite its ground-breaking nature. Milgram gave explanations as to why he thought normal people would follow orders to such an extent and three of those were the Status Location theory, Agentic Shift theory and Legitimate Authority theory One factor was the status of location (Gross, 2010). This means that location of experiment had an effect on obedience amongst participants. It is commonly known that Yale University is a very famous, prestigious educational institution. Therefore people are more likely to obey authority, as they feel it has a good reputation, and therefore anything that is demanded of them there, should be adhered to. In a variation in which the experiment was relocated to a run-down office in downtown Bridgeport, the obedience rate dropped to 47.5 per cent from an original percentage of 65 going all the way up to 450 Volts (Gross 2010) suggesting that the prestige of the university affects obedience. Another factor Milgram believed was involved in obedience was the changing of states from autonomous to agentic (Davenport 1996). All over the world there are different forms of hierarchal societies for example the government, the police, teachers and parents. It is commonly known from a young age humans are taught to obey orders from parents, teachers and many other figures of authority, without necessarily questioning what is being asked of us. In an autonomous state, when making personal decisions according to their own beliefs and values, people see themselves as responsible for their actions; in an agentic state, people consider themselves merely following orders, acting as on somebody else’s behalf or as an agent for somebody else (OLIVER 2005). This unconscious shifting of responsibility allowed the participants in Milgram’s study to continue shocking the learner as they were “merely following orders”. When Milgram said “I am responsible for what goes on here” the participants showed visible signs of relief (Gross 2010) when they had originally been said to “sweat, stutter, tremble, groan, bite, their lips, and dig their nails into their flesh” (Milgram 1963, cited in Gross 2010). The mere fact ordinary people with no history of being violent would go to such violent extremes is evidence of an agentic state. Agentic shift occurred when the participant actually performed the action of administering the deadly shocks. (Milgram 1974)

Milgram 1974 said whilst People are in the agentic state they behave without thinking, regardless of the nature of the order and without conscience, as long as the order comes from a legitimate authority. He believed it may have been the result of socialisation from a very early age people are told what to do by their...

Bibliography: Book Sources
Davenport, C G. (1996) Essential Psychology, Second edition, Hammersmith, Collins Educational
Gross, R (2010) Psychology The Science of Mind and Behaviour, London, Hodder Education.
Gross R (2012) Key studies in psychology, London, Hodder Education.
Gross R, McIlveen R, Coolican H, Clamp A and Russel J (2000) Psychology: A New Introduction for A Level, London, Hodder Headline Plc.
Oliver, K. (2005) Psychology and Everyday Life, Fourth edition, Spain, Hodder and Stoughton
Milgram, S. (1974) Obedience to authority, An experimental view, London HarperCollins
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