The Theory Of Obedience
The purpose of this essay is to describe and evaluate Milgram's theory on obedience. The essay will outline the theory, the famous experiment, the findings from the experiment, and the subsequent studies that have strengthened and weakened the plausibility of the theory. What is the Theory Of Obedience? Milgram (1974) stated:
'A substantial proportion of people do what they are told to do, irrespective of the content of the act and without limitations of conscience, so long as they perceive that the command comes from a legitimate authority.' (Cited by Gross, 1996, p.498). Milgram's study into obedience came about as he was trying to explore the 'Germans are different' hypothesis. (Gross, 1996, p.494) Many historians had argued that Hitler couldn’t have persecuted and exterminated so many Jews and Poles without assistance, and that Germans had a defect in their character that made them obey orders more readily (Gross, 1966, p.494). The famous experiment in 1963 involved the participant delivering a potentially fatal electric shock to a confederate under the supervision of the experimenter. His findings were that 62.5% of participants continued all the way through to the highest shock (Eddy van Avermaet, 2001, p.434). Milgram performed many more variations of this experiment, with which he found situational factors had an impact of the level of obedience - for example if the experimenter was absent from the room, obedience dropped to 21% (Eddy Van Avermaet, 2001, p.435) and if the participant had two confederates that refused to continue after 150v and 210v, the obedience dropped to 10% (Eddy Van Avermaet, 2001, p.436). If the participant had a co-teacher who actually delivered the shock, obedience rose to 92% (Eddy Van Avermaet, 2001, p.436). This showed that situational factors and interpersonal factors do make an impact on obedience. From the experiment results and the variations of the original experiment, Milgram noticed that...
Cited: by Gross, 1996, p.498).
Van Avermaet, E. (2001). Social Groups In Hewstone, M. & Stroebe, W (3) Introduction to Social Psychology (pp.403-444). Padstow, Cornwall: Blackwell Publishing.
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