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Stanley Milgram --- Obedience to Authority Studies Influence (e.g., Anthologies, Intro. Social texts, Media coverage...)

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Presentation on theme: "Stanley Milgram --- Obedience to Authority Studies Influence (e.g., Anthologies, Intro. Social texts, Media coverage...)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Stanley Milgram --- Obedience to Authority Studies Influence (e.g., Anthologies, Intro. Social texts, Media coverage...)

2 Procedure: Supposed random assignment to be either the "learner" or the "administrator" (shocker) Read from the list of word pairs and determine if the answer from the "learner" is correct. If answer is incorrect, the administrator has to shock the learner starting at 15 volts and going up at 15 volt increments (i.e., 15, 30, 45, 60, 75, 90 …..) Generator volts ranged form 15 to 450 ( XXX Danger ) Participants given a sample shock of 45 volt Overall Finding: 65% of participants shocked to the very end What was the basic procedure and finding of Milgram’s study?

3 "Before the experiments, I sought predictions about the outcome from various kinds of people - - psychiatrists, college sophomores, middle-class adults, graduate students and faculty in the behavioral sciences. With remarkable similarity, they predicted that virtually all the subjects would refuse to obey the experimenter. The psychiatrist, specifically, predicted that most subjects would not go beyond 150 volts, when the victim makes his first explicit demand to be freed. They expected that only 4 percent would reach 300 volts, and that only a pathological fringe of about one in a thousand would administer the highest shock on the board". (Milgram, 1974) Why were these people so wrong in their predictions? Tendency to minimize the role of situational forces in influencing human behavior --- What were the predictions regarding the rate of obedience? “ It is surprising how difficult it is for people to keep situational forces in mind, as they seek a totally personalistic interpretation of obedience, divorced from the specific situational pressures acting on the individual” (Milgram, 1974). …The social psychology of this century reveals a major lesson: often it is not so much the kind of person a man is as the kind of situation in which he finds himself that determines how he will act. (Milgram, 1974)

4 “Any interpretation involving the attacker’s strong sadistic impulses is inadequate. There is no evidence that the majority of those who participated in such killings is sadistically inclined” (Kelman, & Hamilton, 1989, p.13, regarding the My Lai massacre) After witnessing hundreds of ordinary persons submit to authority in our own experiments, I must conclude that Arendt’s conception of evil comes closer to the truth than one might dare imagine (Milgram, 1967). [In 1963, Arendt wrote about Eichmann in “ Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. ” She said, “The trouble with Eichmann was precisely that so many were like him, and that the many were neither perverted nor sadistic, that they were, and still are, terrible and terrifyingly normal”] Some Relevant Quotes

5 Methodological Weaknesses of Milgram’s Initial Obedience Study? No manipulated variables No control condition No theoretically derived hypotheses No specific predictions [Paper rejected twice; JPSP and Journal of Personality]

6 The 4 Prods

7 EXPERIMENT # VARIATION RESULTS 1 thru 4Proximity 1st Study = 65% Closer to victim - Less obedience 5Heart Problem65% Obedience 7Closeness of authority (orders given over the phone) 22% Obedience* 8Females as subjects65% Obedience (less predicted) 10Downtown site48% Obedience* 13Ordinary person issues commands (experimenter had to leave) 20% Obedience (4/20 ) 13aAccomplice assumes role of shocker; subject as "bystander" 69% allowed obedience 172 peers (one administrator, one recordkeeper); Subject as shocker One peer rebels (at 150 level) 10% Obedience “When an individual wishes to stand in opposition to authority, he does best to find support for his position from others in his group. The mutual support provided by men for each other is the strongest bulwark we have against the excesses of authority.” --- (Milgram, 1974) 182 peers (one administrator, one recordkeeper); Subject as shocker Both peers keep obeying 93% Obedience

8 Why did the participants in Milgram’s study shock the victim at such high levels? Some Questions About the Meaning of Milgram’s Findings Some Key Factors Time constraints No communication/Limited information Step by step increases in shock levels (gradual nature) Legitimate Authority/State of “agency” (others are responsible) Men who are in everyday life responsible and decent were seduced by the trappings of authority, by the control of their perceptions, and by the uncritical acceptance of the experimenter's definition of the situation, into performing harsh acts. …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 (Milgram, 1965).

9 Describe the recruitment procedure used by Burger (2009) Recruited via newspaper and online service Promised $50.00 for participating! Prescreening --- 1 st Phase: More that 2 psychology courses Responses to 6 questions (e.g., “... Been diagnosed with psychiatric disorder; currently receiving psychotherapy; medical conditions affected by stress”) 2 nd Phase: Given series of psychological tests (e.g., Beck Anxiety and Depression scales) and interview by clinical psychologist 30% rejected 38% rejected

10 Describe the study procedure used by Burger (2009) Generally, the same as Milgram (e.g., confederate learner, “random” assignment to conditions, word-pair test, confederate with heart condition, volts ranged from 15-450 volts) Told 3 times they could withdraw at any time (twice in writing) with $$ Sample shock was 15 volts not 45 Use of 4 prods when reluctance occurred Stopped at 150 volts (79% of Milgram’s participants who reached this level went to the end) Debriefing done immediately after study ended Use of a modeled-refusal condition (confederate stops at 90 volts after use of prod)

11 (Burger, 2009) What % of people obeyed to the 150 shock level? What was the effect of having someone disobey (a model)?

12 (Burger, 2009) What role did gender play in obedience rates?

13 What effect did personality scores have on obedience?

14 Can Milgram’s findings be generalized to other real-life examples of obedience (e.g., Nazi Germany, Mai Lai incident in Vietnam, Kosovo)? Did Milgram’s participants knowingly and voluntarily harm the learner? Questions (cont.)

15 What was the mind set of the subjects (‘teachers”)? How did they interpret the situation? Evidence for Destructive Obedience? Many cues (what subjects were told, background information) that the learner was not going to be significantly (permanently) harmed Administration of pain was believed as important in this context (e.g., for the good of science) Role of conflicting cues (danger label on the shock generator, behavior of the learner versus reactions of the experimenter) Continued presence of the experimenter

16 In Milgrams’s studies the experimenter possessed both expert and legitimate power Issues Regarding Milgram’s Findings Experimenter directed and legitimized the actions of “teacher” Signals arise that causes teacher to question the study (e.g., the learner may being harmed) Natural to look to the experimenter to resolve the situation Experimenter says to continue giving shocks

17 When participants get close to the “danger” shock levels, the learner protests of pain and asks for the study to stop What question(s) now confronts the participant? Has this crossed the line? Am I now causing real harm to the other person? From Milgram (1974. p. 23) : “at this juncture, it was found, subjects would usually turn to the experimenter for guidance.” The statements by the experimenter maintained the perspective that no harm was being inflicted upon the learner (e.g., no permanent damage was being done). According to the experimenter, it was SAFE to continue

18 Participants Questioned Experimenters About Possible Harm and Responsibility for Any Harm Experimenter: As I told you before, the shocks may be painful, but- Teacher: But he’s hollering. He can’t stand it. What’s going to happen to him? Experimenter (his voice patient, matter-of-fact): The experiment requires that you continue, Teacher. Teacher: Aaah, but, unh, I’m not going to get that man sick in there … know what I mean? Experimenter: Whether the learner likes it or not, we must go on, through all the word pairs. Teacher: I refuse to take responsibility. He’s in there hollering! Experimenter: It’s absolutely essential that you continue, Teacher. Teacher (indicating the unused questions): There’s too many left here, I mean, geez, if he gets them wrong, there’s too many of them left. I mean who’s going to take the responsibility if anything happens to that gentleman? Experimenter: I’m responsible for anything that happens to him. Continue please.... it is possible that the participants committed a morally questionable action, but did not knowingly and voluntarily harm an innocent individual (adapted from Darley, 1995)

19 Master-Servant relationship (Master specifies the means and actions of the servant; Master generally assumes responsibility for servant’s behavior) Principle-Independent Contractor relationship (Principle specifies the goals to be accomplished and the contractor decides how to get them done) A Perspective of Principal-Agent Relationships Which one reflects the one in Milgram’s obedience studies?

20 Surveillance Means-EndsHighLow Goals Specified Independent contractor with possibility of consultation Independent contractor determines own actions Actions specified Master-servant relationship; Master determines actions Master-servant relationship; Servant has action discretion Taxonomy of Principle-Agent Relationships Milgram condition

21 Does Milgram’s research illustrate the beginning of a developmental process for obedience to occur? If sanctioned by outside (organizational) forces, people may independently, calmly, and willing do what they were initially reluctant to do (Darley, 1995) A general example: Agent does not obey or alters a procedure to be less “effective” Authority figure rejects the actions of the agent Crisis point (exit or remain in the system) If one stays, more likely to obey in the future (evil-doing can be learned) Obedience as an an Evolutionary/Developmental Learning Process (From Darley, 1995)

22 Evolution of Evil The conversion process: “Over time, and in conditions conductive to such transformations, good people can become truly evil ---- dispositionally and morally evil” (Darley 1992) Rosenblatt (1994): “None of these executives think of themselves as morally bankrupt, and I do not think of then individually in that way, either. What often happens to people who work for a large, immensely successful company, however, is that they tend to adopt the values of the company, regardless of its product. Loyalty supersedes objectivity ….. How good, smart, decent individuals manage to contribute to a wicked enterprise is a question that has has been applied to numerous governments as well as to industries ….. In speaking with these Philip Morris executives, I felt the presence of the company with in the person. In the end, I felt that I was speaking with more company that person, or perhaps to a person who could no longer distinguish between the two. In this situation, in which the company has effectively absorbed its employees in its moral universe, the more responsible employees are the company and thus are to blame.” Arendt (1963): “Great evil rises out of ordinary psychological processes that evolve, usually with a progression along the continuum of destruction”

23 1)Binding forces that accrue by the escalating features of the actions themselves 2)Tendency for individuals to develop self-justifying rationalizations for their destructive obedience Key Elements for Ongoing Obedience (from Milgram) Important Overall Impact of Milgram’s Obedience Research --- The need to investigate the situation closely, especially the subjective perspective of the participant, especially when the behavior to be explained appears to be inexplicable


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