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OBEDIENCE. Stanley Milgram 1962, 1974. In Milgram’s Own Words. What was Milgram’s motive for studying obedience to authority?. Set-Up. “Memory” study 40 participants Experimenter, Teacher, and Learner (confederate). Instructions. Read a series of word pairings, test learner’s memory

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Stanley Milgram

1962, 1974

In milgram s own words
In Milgram’s Own Words

  • What was Milgram’s motive for studying obedience to authority?

Set up

  • “Memory” study

  • 40 participants

  • Experimenter, Teacher, and Learner (confederate)


  • Read a series of word pairings, test learner’s memory

  • Wrong answers received a shock

    • Teacher receives example shock (45 volts)

  • Shock intensities increased as questions continued


  • Learner = confederate

  • No actual shocks administered

  • “slight heart condition”

The experiment
The Experiment

  • Experimenter urged to participants to comply

  • Learner complains about heart condition, screams, eventually goes silent (unconscious? dead?)

    • Sweating

    • Head rubbing

    • Sighs

    • Uneasiness

    • Nervous laughter

    • Chain smoking


  • Over 60% of participants complied to the end

Why obey
Why Obey?

  • The person giving the orders was close at hand

  • The person giving the orders was perceived to be a legitimate authority figure.

  • The authority figure was from a prestigious institution

  • The victim was depersonalized or perceived at a distance

  • There were no role models for defiance, no other participants were seen disobeying the experimenter


  • Reconciliation between teacher and learner

  • No harm done

Ethical concerns
Ethical Concerns

  • Is it ethical to deceive a human into believing they are harming or even killing another human?

    • Causes excessive cognitive dissonance

Would people respond the same now
Would people respond the same now?

British Psychological Society (BPS)

American Psychological Association (APA)

Psychologists do not conduct a study involving deception unless

they have determined that the use of deceptive techniques is justified by the study’s significant prospective scientific, educational, or applied value and that effective nondeceptive alternative procedures are not feasible.

Psychologists do not deceive prospective participants about research that is reasonably expected to cause physical pain or severe emotional distress.

  • Avoid intentional deception of clients unless:

    • deception is necessary in exceptional circumstances to preserve the integrity of research or the efficacy of professional services;

    • any additional safeguards required for the preservation of client welfare are specifically considered; and

    • the nature of the deception is disclosed to clients at the earliest feasible opportunity.

Jerry burger s modifications
Jerry Burger’s Modifications

  • Max. shock level = 150 volts

    • Milgram’s max. shock level = 450 volts

  • “Carefully screened” participants to eliminate those who might experience negative reactions to the experiment.

    • Milgram = average screening

Human nature
Human Nature

  • 60% of participants completed the study  what does this say about human nature?

    • Wolves (are we inherently evil?)

    • Sheep (are we naturally good and/or obedient?)

Wolves        Sheep

Evil Good

Final thoughts
Final Thoughts

  • In a few sentences, explain your position concerning the question: Are humans naturally evil or naturally obedient?

    • You must use psychological evidence from social psychology (research study findings and/or vocabulary terms) to support your answer.