Zimbardo, P. (1973). On the ethics
of intervention in human psychological research: With special reference to the
Stanford prison experiment. Cognition,
2(2), 243-256.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/0010-0277(72)90014-5

Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral
Study of obedience. The Journal Of
Abnormal And Social Psychology, 67(4),
371-378. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0040525

Martin, C. & Bull, P. (2008).
Obedience and conformity in clinical practice. British Journal Of Midwifery, 16(8),
504-509. http://dx.doi.org/10.12968/bjom.2008.16.8.30783

Hogg, M. & Vaughan, G. (2014). Social psychology (7th ed.). Harlow:
Pearson.

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Hofling, C. K., Brotzman, E.,
Dalrymple, S., Graves, N. & Bierce, C. (1966). An experimental study of
nurse-physician relations. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 143, 171-180.

Haslam, S. & Reicher, S.
(2017). Contesting the “Nature” Of
Conformity: What Milgram and Zimbardo’s Studies Really Show. Retrieved 7
March 2017, from

Fox, S. & Hoffman, M. (2002).
Escalation Behavior as a Specific Case of Goal-Directed Activity: A Persistence
Paradigm. Basic And Applied Social
Psychology, 24(4), 273-285.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/s15324834basp2404_3

Bushman, B. (1988). The Effects of
Apparel on Compliance: A Field Experiment with a Female Authority Figure. Personality And Social Psychology Bulletin,
14(3), 459-467.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0146167288143004

Blass, T. (1991). Understanding
behavior in the Milgram obedience experiment: The role of personality,
situations, and their interactions. Journal
Of Personality And Social Psychology, 60(3),
398-413. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037//0022-3514.60.3.398

Bushman, B. (1988). The Effects of
Apparel on Compliance: A Field Experiment with a Female Authority Figure. Personality And Social Psychology Bulletin,
14(3), 459-467.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1177

Bickman, L. (1974). The Social
Power of a Uniform1. Journal Of Applied
Social Psychology, 4(1), 47-61.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1559-1816.1974.tb02599.x

Bègue, L., Beauvois, J., Courbet,
D., Oberlé, D., Lepage, J., & Duke, A. (2014). Personality Predicts
Obedience in a Milgram Paradigm. Journal
Of Personality, 83(3), 299-306.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jopy.12104

Baumrind, D. (1964). Some thoughts
on ethics of research: After reading Milgram’s “Behavioral Study of Obedience.”.
American Psychologist, 19(6), 421-423.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0040128

References

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In conclusion, this essay has
expressed how Milgram’s experiments have contributed to the psychological
understanding of obedience to authority. It is evident that there are many
different factors involved when it comes down to obedience, all this past
research has shaped the understanding of obedience to authority in contemporary
psychology. It can be argued that obedience to authority could be the result of
a combination of both personality and situational factors. It may be that the
situation itself has provoked an outrageous action, or it could also be that
the person may have had a certain personality type that is susceptible to that
situation. So, it could be that one situation has an effect on one person
whereas that same situation may affect someone else differently due to them
having a different personality type. Also, a person’s mental health could have
an effect on obedience, if someone suffers from low self-esteem this could make
them more vulnerable and more likely to comply regardless of the uniform or any
other factor. This is simply due to the fact that a person with low self-esteem
may seek or require validation from other people for their actions and
sub-consciously wanting approval from others, therefore they may believe if
they follow the order they have been given regardless of who gives it, it may
provide some sort of self-satisfaction. People with these types of issues are
vulnerable as they seek to gain approval from other people. These are some
other potential reasons for obedience to authority, but Milgram has had a
massive impact on the field of psychology in understanding obedience to
authority and therefore has become a notable figure in this field, this is
because although his work may be controversial it has assisted us in
understanding these concepts to a much higher degree and therefore without his
work there would have been so many more gaps in knowledge to fill.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On
the other hand, there are a lot of weaknesses of Milgram’s experiment one of
which is the fact that it lacks experimental realism, and this acquisition was
made by Orne & Holland (1968). The participants may have known that it was
a set-up and known that the learner wasn’t receiving electric shocks. It was
argued that there were so many ethical issues with Milgram’s experiment
Baumrind (1964), the participants in Milgram’s
experiment believed they were administering electric shocks which were causing
pain to someone and this has psychological harm to the person as it something
people do not want to be doing (Hogg & Vaughan, 2014). However, in a
follow up interview Milgram found no evidence of any psychological trauma
(Milgram, 1992, p. 186) as cited by (Hogg &
Vaughan, 2014). Additionally, it was made difficult for participants to
withdraw as they were prodded and these verbal prods made it harder to withdraw
from the experiment. Also, the sample consisted of solely male participants
therefore meaning there is a gender bias, as a consequence the findings cannot
be generalised to the wider population. Results may be different if
participants were females as they may have reacted or behaved differently in
the same conditions. It could also be argued that obedience is not only predicted
by situational factors but also dispositional factors, a
review done on Milgram’s paradigm shows that situational factors of obedience
is not as clear and that personality can also influence obedience (Blass,
1991). For example, Bègue et al., (2014) investigated how an individual’s
temperament predicts obedience. In this study, the sample consisted of both
male and female participants and were contacted by phone. Results showed that
conscientiousness and agreeableness was associated with the willingness to
administer electric shocks to the learner. This reveals that a person’s
personality type may incline them to be more willing to do something and this
explains individual differences in personality types also when it comes to
explaining obedience to authority. Haslam & Reicher (2017) shows an
alternative explanation which suggests that tyranny is not the product of blind
conformity to rules, it is in fact an act of followership when a person
identifies with a person in authority. Those who do follow evil are doing it
out of choice and belief and not because they are obliged to. Furthermore,
support for social factors and its influence on obedience comes from Zimbardo
and his famous Stanford prison experiment. Zimbardo (1973) investigated
people’s conformity levels to the roles of guards and prisoners, participants
were assigned randomly to their roles. Prisoners in this experiment were
treated extremely poorly, they were humiliated, stripped naked and were given
prison clothing. Results showed that both the guards and prisoners settled into
their roles quite quickly with guards filling their roles relatively quicker.
The guards would harass the prisoners and were seen to be enjoying it. Overall,
people will conform to social roles quite readily, and the prison environment
most definitely influenced the guard’s brutal behaviour considerably therefore
showing the affect situational factors have on people. This supports the idea
of situational factors having an effect on people as in Milgram’s study different
variations of the independent variable had a significant effect on obedience
levels. Further support for Milgram’s study comes from Bickman (1974), this was
a field experiment conducted in New York. Bickman asked three confederates to
be dressed in normal clothes, security guard and a milkman. These actors would
then give people around the area instructions, finally results found that
people would be more likely to obey the actor dressed as a security guard as
opposed to the actor dressed in normal clothes. This evidently shows that
people are more likely to obey those in uniform as the uniform is associated
with power, in people’s eyes wearing a uniform signals authority so therefore
the perception of wearing uniform means power. Similarly, Hofling (1966) as
cited by (Martin & Bull, 2008) conducted a naturalistic field experiment
which involved real night nurses. In this study nurses were given orders by a
doctor over the phone which would breach hospital regulations and results
showed that majority of nurses would be influenced into carrying out the
orders. This therefore demonstrates that even if people have a good reason not
to comply to any orders, they will not question the request if someone in
authority has given the order.

Variations of Milgram’s experiment
was conducted numerous times to see if whether changing the independent
variable would have an effect on the dependant variable and by doing this it
was easier to see what factors affect obedience rates. One of the variations
was changing the location of the experiment and when this was done obedience
levels dropped significantly which therefore suggests that location has an
effect on obedience (Milgram, 1963). One more factor that influences obedience
is ‘immediacy of the authority figure’ (Hogg & Vaughan, 2014). For
example, when the experimenter was absent from the room and instead gave orders
through a telephone obedience levels dropped to 20.5 per cent. Another factor
responsible for obedience level is the legitimacy of the authority figure. For
example, Bushman (1988) had confederates dressed in uniform, neat attire or
dressed shabbily and found that a significant amount of people obeyed the
person in uniform and only 50 per cent obeyed to those dressed in a neat attire
or shabbily. This suggests that different emblems of authority can make people
obey far greater (Hogg & Vaughan, 2014).

In
the early 70’s Solomon Asch published results of his experiment on conformity
whereby participants who were students conformed to judgements of line lengths
Asch (1951) as cited by (Hogg & Vaughan, 2014), the aim of the experiment
was to investigate social pressure from a majority group and to see the effect
it has on a person to conform (Hogg & Vaughan, 2014). However, Milgram
argued against Asch’s experiment arguing the method of the study was flawed as
the task was quite trivial and therefore Milgram decided to replicate the study
but this time the task had important consequences when participants had to
decide whether to conform or be independent (Hogg & Vaughan, 2014). The
replication study conducted by Milgram had confederate participants administer
electric shocks to the non-confederate participants to see if they would
conform. In the study conducted by Milgram (1963),
participants drew straws to reveal if they would be the learner or the teacher
but in all actuality the confederate would always be the learner. Then learner
would then be strapped to a chair and would have electrodes on them, the
learner would be asked to learn a list of word pairs and then after that has
been learnt the teacher would then test him. The instructions given to the
teacher were that every time the learner makes a mistake they would have to
administer the shock and then progressively increase the level of shock as they
make mistakes. The confederate (learner) would purposely give wrong answers,
also the shock generator ranged from 15 volts to 450 volts and 450 volts would
be classified as being a severe level of shock. If the teacher did not want to
administer the shock, they would be prodded (4 prods). Results showed that all
the participants continued to administer the shock up to 300 volts, whereas two
thirds of the participants went up to 450 volts. Therefore, in conclusion
ordinary people are more likely to listen to orders given by someone who is in
authority. A reason for why the administration of the electric shocks continued
could be due to the shocks being quite trivial at the start of the experiment,
if people commit themselves to administering shocks from the start it can be
difficult for their minds to change (Hogg & Vaughan, 2014). People will
continue a particular action once they are committed even if the costs of doing
that action increase significantly (Fox & Hoffman,
2002).

This
essay will attempt to evaluate the contributions of Milgram’s experiments to
the psychological understanding of obedience to authority, whilst touching upon
the many strengths and weaknesses of the actual obedience studies which will be
evaluated critically. Milgram is an eminent figure in the world of psychology
and has assisted in helping people comprehend various reasons for obedience to
authority, and the studies conducted by him have further helped in helping
people understand some of the reasons for social influence. There are different
types of social influence which include compliance, obedience, and conformity.
Social influence refers to the process in which the attitudes and behaviours of
people are influenced by the presence of other people (Hogg & Vaughan,
2014). One form of social influence is compliance which is public change in
behaviour and is expressed due to being pressured in a group (Hogg &
Vaughan, 2014).

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