Obedience • Majority & minority influence do not always involve a deliberate attempt to change someone’s behaviour • Obedience always involves a direct attempt by one person to control another • “Complying with or deferring to a request or order from a legitimate authority”
Studies of Obedience • Milgram (1963) • A study of destructive obedience to authority • Involved giving people orders to hurt and possibly kill an innocent stranger
Milgram (1963) • Milgram advertised, using a newspaper and direct mailing, for 500 hundred New Haven men to take part in a scientific study of memory and learning at Yale University. Everyone was paid $4.50 simply for coming to the laboratory. The payment did not depend on remaining in the study.
Milgram (1963) • The final group of participants consisted of 40 men aged between 20 and 50, who came from various occupational backgrounds. • There were two further participants: the part of the experimenter was played by a biology teacher, and the part of the learner or victim was a 47-year-old accountant. Both of these men were accomplices of Milgram or confederates.
When each participant arrived, they were told that the purpose of the experiment was to see how punishment affected learning. • The learner was strapped into a chair in the next door room and an electrode attached to his wrist. The learner was given the following task: He would hear a list of word pairs and later be given one word and a choice of four possible partners. He must identify which of the four was correct.
Milgram (1963) • Every time the learner got a question wrong, he would receive an electric shock administered by the teacher and the shocks increased in intensity with each mistake. The teacher did this using a shock generator. • Volts started at 15volts and went all the way up to 450volts.
Milgram (1963) • The ‘teacher’ was given a sample shock of 45 volts to demonstrate that the machine was working, though in fact that was the only time it did work. For the rest of the experiment the learner only pretended to be receiving shocks.
Activity • If you had volunteered to take part in this study, how would you feel at this stage about what you had volunteered to do (remember you are ‘blind’ to the deception)? • The participants were all volunteers. In what way(s) do you think that people who volunteer are different from people who don’t answer advertisements? • In what other ways was this sample biased? (Suggest at least two ways.)
Milgram (1963) • After a few practice questions, the experiment began. The learner gave mainly wrong answers and for each of these the teacher gave him an electric shock which was received in silence until they got to shock level 300. • At this point the learner pounded on the wall and then gave no response to the next question. When the ‘teacher’ turned to the experimenter for guidance, he was given the standard instruction, ‘an absence of response should be treated as a wrong answer’.
Milgram (1963) • After the 315 volt shock the learner pounded on the wall again but after that there was no further response from the learner – no answers and no pounding on the wall. If the teacher felt unsure about continuing, the experimenter used a sequence of 4 standard ‘prods’, which were repeated if necessary: • Prod 1: Please continue. • Prod 2: The experiment requires that you continue. • Prod 3: It is absolutely essential that you continue. • Prod 4: You have no other choice, you must go on.
Milgram (1963) • If the teacher asked whether the learner might suffer permanent physical injury, the experimenter said: “Although the shocks may be painful, there is no permanent tissue damage, so please go on.” • If the teacher said that the learner clearly wanted to stop, the experimenter said: “Whether the learner likes it or not, you must go on until he has learned all the word pairs correctly. So please go on.”
Activity 2 • Identify the independent variable (IV) and dependent variable (DV) in this experiment. • Why do you think it was important to have a standardised set of responses for the experimenter? • Before you look at the results, write down what you think they will be. What percentage of people do you think continued beyond 315 volts?
Milgram results • There are two key findings from this study, both quite ‘shocking’: • Over half of the participants (26/40 or 65%) went all the way with the electric shocks. • Only nine of the participants (22.5%) stopped at 315 volts.
Milgram results • Prior to the experiment Milgram asked 14 psychology students to predict the naïve participants’ behaviour. The students estimated that no more than 3% of the participants would continue to 450 volts. People who observed the experiment through one-way mirrors also expressed complete astonishment at the participants’ behaviour.
Milgram results • Milgram noted that the participants showed signs of extreme tension: most of them were seen to ‘sweat, tremble, stutter, bite their lips, groan and dig their finger-nails into their flesh’ and quite a few laughed nervously and smiled in a bizarre fashion. Three even had ‘full-blown uncontrollable seizures’.
Debriefing • At the end of the experiment all participants were debriefed. They were reunited with the victim, assured there had been no shocks, and told that their behaviour was entirely normal and that their feelings of conflict were shared by the others. • They were also sent a follow-up questionnaire, which showed that 84% felt glad to have participated, and 74% felt they had learned something of personal importance. Only one person reported that he felt sorry to have participated.
Activity 3 • Which of the findings do you find are surprising, and why? • In what way is it important that the results were so unanticipated? • Why do you think that it was important for the participants to be debriefed? • What features of this experiment made it more likely that participants would behave more obediently than they would normally? (Note: in a sense these features are demandcharacteristics.) • Milgram says that obedience is ‘an indispensable feature of social life’. Do you agree? Why or why not?
Factors in Destructive Obedience • Several factors increase a person’s tendency to obey an authority: • Legitimacy of the authority • Social isolation • ‘Buffers’ between aggressor & victim • Gradual commitment
Agency Theory (Milgram, 1963) • People have two ways of acting • Autonomous – they direct their own behaviour, and take responsibility for the results • Agentic – they allow someone else to direct their behaviour, and assume that responsibility passes to that person
Agency Theory • We act agentically when the situation or social role we are in seems to demand it • E.g. when given an order by someone wearing a uniform
Resisting Obedience • Educate people • Students who knew about the Milgram research were less likely to obey in a similar study (Gross, 1992) • Remind people of their responsibilities • When Milgram’s PPs were reminded that they were responsible, almost none obeyed
Resisting Obedience • Give social support • In the ‘disobedient confeds’ version, obedience was much lower • Attack the authority’s credibility • Obedience relies on perceived legitimacy
Validity “The extent to which a test or research study measures what it was designed to measure”
Validity • Internal validity • The extent to which the research study was properly conducted, so that it produced a truthful result • The controls (did anything else affect PPs?) • The measurements (accurate & meaningful?) • The demand characteristics (could PPs work out the aims & change their behaviour?)
Validity • External validity • The extent to which the study’s results can be generalised beyond the research situation • The setting (was it realistic?) • The sample (was it representative?)
Assessing Internal Validity • Did the researcher remove or control all additional factors that could have affected the PPs’ behaviour? • Was the behaviour measured an accurate reflection of the relevant psychological processes? • Were there any clues (demand characteristics) that could have allowed the PPs to guess the aim?
Assessing External Validity • Was the research conducted in a setting that resembles the relevant real-world setting in all important respects? • Did the sample used in the study contain members of all the sub-groups represented in the target population in the appropriate proportions? • NB: the target population is not necessarily the general population
Validity & Triangulation • Triangulating means comparing the results of a variety of research studies to see if they all point in the same direction. • Where the validity of a study is in doubt, see if the same or similar results were obtained in a study that used a different methodology.
Internal Validity of Milgram Orne (1966) Says… Milgram Replies… The PPs were not really fooled. They were just playing along with the demand characteristics of the situation. If the PPs weren’t really fooled, why did they get so stressed? This would suggest that they thought the shocks were real. The stress came from having to play along with the situation. They still didn’t believe they were hurting Mr Wallace really. If they didn’t believe that Mr Wallace was really getting hurt, why did they ‘cheat’ when the experimenter was absent?
External Validity of Milgram Criticism… Response… Milgram’s study involved a bizarre task and an artificial situation. People don’t really behave that way in real life. But Hofling et al found that nurses would obey an order to hurt a patient. This shows that authority can make people do bad things But the nurses were only doing their job. They thought it was for the patient’s benefit, and most didn’t notice the incorrect dosage OK, but Bickman (1975) showed that just wearing a uniform increases people’s obedience. That’s what Milgram showed.
External Validity of Milgram Criticism… Response… Milgram only used men in his research. That means that we cannot generalise his results to women. We cannot wholly trust his results. But Milgram did a later study with female pps and found that the rate of obedience was 65% - exactly the same as in male samples. Milgram only used 40 Fs – a small sample. Kilham & Mann (1974) found only 16% of Fs obeyed – less than the Ms in their study (40%) That’s a freak finding. The experiment has been done many times, and usually M & F don’t differ, regardless of the culture of the PPs.