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doi.org/10.1037/h0040128References In conclusion, this essay hasexpressed how Milgram’s experiments have contributed to the psychologicalunderstanding of obedience to authority.
It is evident that there are manydifferent factors involved when it comes down to obedience, all this pastresearch has shaped the understanding of obedience to authority in contemporarypsychology. It can be argued that obedience to authority could be the result ofa combination of both personality and situational factors. It may be that thesituation itself has provoked an outrageous action, or it could also be thatthe person may have had a certain personality type that is susceptible to thatsituation. So, it could be that one situation has an effect on one personwhereas that same situation may affect someone else differently due to themhaving a different personality type. Also, a person’s mental health could havean effect on obedience, if someone suffers from low self-esteem this could makethem more vulnerable and more likely to comply regardless of the uniform or anyother factor.
This is simply due to the fact that a person with low self-esteemmay seek or require validation from other people for their actions andsub-consciously wanting approval from others, therefore they may believe ifthey follow the order they have been given regardless of who gives it, it mayprovide some sort of self-satisfaction. People with these types of issues arevulnerable as they seek to gain approval from other people. These are someother potential reasons for obedience to authority, but Milgram has had amassive impact on the field of psychology in understanding obedience toauthority and therefore has become a notable figure in this field, this isbecause although his work may be controversial it has assisted us inunderstanding these concepts to a much higher degree and therefore without hiswork there would have been so many more gaps in knowledge to fill. Onthe other hand, there are a lot of weaknesses of Milgram’s experiment one ofwhich is the fact that it lacks experimental realism, and this acquisition wasmade by Orne & Holland (1968). The participants may have known that it wasa set-up and known that the learner wasn’t receiving electric shocks. It wasargued that there were so many ethical issues with Milgram’s experimentBaumrind (1964), the participants in Milgram’sexperiment believed they were administering electric shocks which were causingpain to someone and this has psychological harm to the person as it somethingpeople do not want to be doing (Hogg & Vaughan, 2014).
However, in afollow 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 towithdraw as they were prodded and these verbal prods made it harder to withdrawfrom the experiment.
Also, the sample consisted of solely male participantstherefore meaning there is a gender bias, as a consequence the findings cannotbe generalised to the wider population. Results may be different ifparticipants were females as they may have reacted or behaved differently inthe same conditions. It could also be argued that obedience is not only predictedby situational factors but also dispositional factors, areview done on Milgram’s paradigm shows that situational factors of obedienceis not as clear and that personality can also influence obedience (Blass,1991). For example, Bègue et al., (2014) investigated how an individual’stemperament predicts obedience. In this study, the sample consisted of bothmale and female participants and were contacted by phone.
Results showed thatconscientiousness and agreeableness was associated with the willingness toadminister electric shocks to the learner. This reveals that a person’spersonality type may incline them to be more willing to do something and thisexplains individual differences in personality types also when it comes toexplaining obedience to authority. Haslam & Reicher (2017) shows analternative explanation which suggests that tyranny is not the product of blindconformity to rules, it is in fact an act of followership when a personidentifies with a person in authority.
Those who do follow evil are doing itout of choice and belief and not because they are obliged to. Furthermore,support for social factors and its influence on obedience comes from Zimbardoand his famous Stanford prison experiment. Zimbardo (1973) investigatedpeople’s conformity levels to the roles of guards and prisoners, participantswere assigned randomly to their roles. Prisoners in this experiment weretreated extremely poorly, they were humiliated, stripped naked and were givenprison clothing.
Results showed that both the guards and prisoners settled intotheir 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 environmentmost definitely influenced the guard’s brutal behaviour considerably thereforeshowing the affect situational factors have on people. This supports the ideaof situational factors having an effect on people as in Milgram’s study differentvariations of the independent variable had a significant effect on obediencelevels. Further support for Milgram’s study comes from Bickman (1974), this wasa field experiment conducted in New York.
Bickman asked three confederates tobe dressed in normal clothes, security guard and a milkman. These actors wouldthen give people around the area instructions, finally results found thatpeople would be more likely to obey the actor dressed as a security guard asopposed to the actor dressed in normal clothes. This evidently shows thatpeople are more likely to obey those in uniform as the uniform is associatedwith power, in people’s eyes wearing a uniform signals authority so thereforethe perception of wearing uniform means power. Similarly, Hofling (1966) ascited by (Martin & Bull, 2008) conducted a naturalistic field experimentwhich involved real night nurses. In this study nurses were given orders by adoctor over the phone which would breach hospital regulations and resultsshowed that majority of nurses would be influenced into carrying out theorders.
This therefore demonstrates that even if people have a good reason notto comply to any orders, they will not question the request if someone inauthority has given the order.Variations of Milgram’s experimentwas conducted numerous times to see if whether changing the independentvariable would have an effect on the dependant variable and by doing this itwas easier to see what factors affect obedience rates. One of the variationswas changing the location of the experiment and when this was done obediencelevels dropped significantly which therefore suggests that location has aneffect on obedience (Milgram, 1963). One more factor that influences obedienceis ‘immediacy of the authority figure’ (Hogg & Vaughan, 2014). Forexample, when the experimenter was absent from the room and instead gave ordersthrough a telephone obedience levels dropped to 20.5 per cent. Another factorresponsible for obedience level is the legitimacy of the authority figure.
Forexample, Bushman (1988) had confederates dressed in uniform, neat attire ordressed shabbily and found that a significant amount of people obeyed theperson in uniform and only 50 per cent obeyed to those dressed in a neat attireor shabbily. This suggests that different emblems of authority can make peopleobey far greater (Hogg & Vaughan, 2014).Inthe early 70’s Solomon Asch published results of his experiment on conformitywhereby participants who were students conformed to judgements of line lengthsAsch (1951) as cited by (Hogg & Vaughan, 2014), the aim of the experimentwas to investigate social pressure from a majority group and to see the effectit has on a person to conform (Hogg & Vaughan, 2014). However, Milgramargued against Asch’s experiment arguing the method of the study was flawed asthe task was quite trivial and therefore Milgram decided to replicate the studybut this time the task had important consequences when participants had todecide whether to conform or be independent (Hogg & Vaughan, 2014). Thereplication study conducted by Milgram had confederate participants administerelectric shocks to the non-confederate participants to see if they wouldconform. In the study conducted by Milgram (1963),participants drew straws to reveal if they would be the learner or the teacherbut in all actuality the confederate would always be the learner.
Then learnerwould then be strapped to a chair and would have electrodes on them, thelearner would be asked to learn a list of word pairs and then after that hasbeen learnt the teacher would then test him. The instructions given to theteacher were that every time the learner makes a mistake they would have toadminister the shock and then progressively increase the level of shock as theymake mistakes. The confederate (learner) would purposely give wrong answers,also the shock generator ranged from 15 volts to 450 volts and 450 volts wouldbe classified as being a severe level of shock. If the teacher did not want toadminister the shock, they would be prodded (4 prods). Results showed that allthe participants continued to administer the shock up to 300 volts, whereas twothirds of the participants went up to 450 volts. Therefore, in conclusionordinary people are more likely to listen to orders given by someone who is inauthority. A reason for why the administration of the electric shocks continuedcould 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 bedifficult for their minds to change (Hogg & Vaughan, 2014).
People willcontinue a particular action once they are committed even if the costs of doingthat action increase significantly (Fox & Hoffman,2002).Thisessay will attempt to evaluate the contributions of Milgram’s experiments tothe psychological understanding of obedience to authority, whilst touching uponthe many strengths and weaknesses of the actual obedience studies which will beevaluated critically. Milgram is an eminent figure in the world of psychologyand has assisted in helping people comprehend various reasons for obedience toauthority, and the studies conducted by him have further helped in helpingpeople understand some of the reasons for social influence. There are differenttypes of social influence which include compliance, obedience, and conformity.
Social influence refers to the process in which the attitudes and behaviours ofpeople are influenced by the presence of other people (Hogg & Vaughan,2014). One form of social influence is compliance which is public change inbehaviour and is expressed due to being pressured in a group (Hogg &Vaughan, 2014).