Social Psychology

Topics: Social psychology, Milgram experiment, Stanford prison experiment Pages: 7 (2617 words) Published: December 17, 2010
The desire to be accepted and belong to a group is an undeniable human need. We change because we realize that sometimes we are socially different and want to be accepted in society or it is something that we aim to achieve in becoming (Allen & Levine, 1969). The changes that occur have mostly been from the experiences that we see, hear, or feel to make the changes that we do on ourselves (Friedkin, 1998). Social psychologists have conducted numerous experiments and concluded that, through various forms of social influence, groups can change their members' thoughts, feelings, and behaviour, intentionally or unintentionally, as a result of the way the changed person perceives themselves in relationship to the influencer, other people and society in general (Hogg & Vaughan, 2008). Hogg and Vaughan (2008) stated that the three areas of social influence are obedience, compliance and conformity. Raven (1992) asserted that it is human nature to obey to rules and regulations set by higher authority, to conform to group norms and to comply with requests. Moghaddam (1998) defines obedience, as an actions carried out by commands, showing that it is requested by authority, or from someone whom is perceived to be of authority (i.e., Parents, teachers, authority by appointment, spiritual leaders etc.). In the most penetrating and incisive social psychological explorations of obedience, a major dilemma revolves around the issue of how far people are willing to obey authority figure (French & Raven, 1959). It seems that some people are often much more willing to obey orders to harm others than is generally assumed (Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004). This tendency to underestimate the extent to which people will obey instructions from authority figures to harm others was demonstrated in a well known experiment that shed light to the concept of obedience is Milgram’s (1963) experiment (Vaughan & Hogg, 2008). The study revealed that obedience to authority is a powerful tool that makes people follow orders blindly without rational thinking or questioning of ambiguous orders to a certain extent that they can even cause harm to others (Moscovici, 1994). Although the participants involved were capable of thinking rationally, that is to cause no harm to others; they subconsciously entered into an “Agentic Mode” (Vaughan & Hogg, 2008), where the participants transfer their “personal responsibilities to the person giving orders”. Meaning, the participants blamed the person giving orders for making them harm the other participants in the experiment. According to Milgram (1974), “The essence of obedience consists in the fact that a person comes to view himself as the instrument for carrying out another person's wishes, and he therefore no longer sees himself as responsible for his actions. Once this critical shift of viewpoint has occurred in the person, all of the essential features of obedience follow. Thus, the major problem for the subject is to recapture control of his own regnant processes once he has committed them to the purposes of the experimenter (Nissani, 1990).

Another important factor in obedience is immediacy-social proximity of the victim to the participant. Milgram (1974) altered the visibility and the audibility of the "learner.” The more immediate or direct the victim, the less the obedience (Bales, 1950). When the victim is "in your face” it is hard to deny him (Milgram, 1974). The victim's physical immediacy increased, the participant's compliance decreased; when the authority's physical immediacy decreased, the participant's compliance decreased. For example, where participants received telephonic instructions from the experimenter, compliance decreased; interestingly, some participants deceived the experimenter by pretending to continue the experiment. Milgram, (1974), further stated that close physical proximity to an authority figure enhanced participants’ obedience to that...
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