Three individuals took part in each session of the experiment: The "experimenter", who was in charge of the session. The "teacher", a volunteer for a single session. The "teachers" were led to believe that they were merely assisting, whereas they were actually the subjects of the experiment. The "learner", an actor and a confederate of the experimenter, who pretended to be a volunteer. The subject and the actor arrived at the session together. Also, he always clarified that the payment for their participation in the experiment was secured regardless of its development.

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By Saul McLeod , updated One of the most famous studies of obedience in psychology was carried out by Stanley Milgram, a psychologist at Yale University. He conducted an experiment focusing on the conflict between obedience to authority and personal conscience. Their defense often was based on " obedience " - that they were just following orders from their superiours. The experiments began in July , a year after the trial of Adolf Eichmann in Jerusalem. Milgram devised the experiment to answer the question: Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders?

Could we call them all accomplices? Milgram selected participants for his experiment by newspaper advertising for male participants to take part in a study of learning at Yale University. The learner a confederate called Mr. Wallace was taken into a room and had electrodes attached to his arms, and the teacher and researcher went into a room next door that contained an electric shock generator and a row of switches marked from 15 volts Slight Shock to volts Danger: Severe Shock to volts XXX.

Stanley Milgram was interested in how easily ordinary people could be influenced into committing atrocities, for example, Germans in WWII. Participants were 40 males, aged between 20 and 50, whose jobs ranged from unskilled to professional, from the New Haven area. At the beginning of the experiment, they were introduced to another participant, who was a confederate of the experimenter Milgram. Two rooms in the Yale Interaction Laboratory were used - one for the learner with an electric chair and another for the teacher and experimenter with an electric shock generator.

Wallace was strapped to a chair with electrodes. The teacher is told to administer an electric shock every time the learner makes a mistake, increasing the level of shock each time. The learner gave mainly wrong answers on purpose , and for each of these, the teacher gave him an electric shock.

There were four prods and if one was not obeyed, then the experimenter Mr. Williams read out the next prod, and so on. Prod 1: Please continue.

Prod 2: The experiment requires you to continue. Prod 3: It is absolutely essential that you continue. Prod 4: You have no other choice but to continue. All the participants continued to volts.

All he did was alter the situation IV to see how this affected obedience DV. Conclusion: Conclusion: Ordinary people are likely to follow orders given by an authority figure, even to the extent of killing an innocent human being.

Obedience to authority is ingrained in us all from the way we are brought up. This response to legitimate authority is learned in a variety of situations, for example in the family, school, and workplace. I set up a simple experiment at Yale University to test how much pain an ordinary citizen would inflict on another person simply because he was ordered to by an experimental scientist.

The extreme willingness of adults to go to almost any lengths on the command of an authority constitutes the chief finding of the study and the fact most urgently demanding explanation. The agentic state — people allow others to direct their actions and then pass off the responsibility for the consequences to the person giving the orders. That is, they are seen as legitimate.

The person being ordered about is able to believe that the authority will accept responsibility for what happens. Agency theory says that people will obey an authority when they believe that the authority will take responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

For example, when participants were reminded that they had responsibility for their own actions, almost none of them were prepared to obey. In contrast, many participants who were refusing to go on did so if the experimenter said that he would take responsibility.

By doing this Milgram could identify which factors affected obedience the DV. In total participants have been tested in 18 different variation studies. Uniform In the original baseline study — the experimenter wore a gray lab coat as a symbol of his authority a kind of uniform.

Milgram carried out a variation in which the experimenter was called away because of a phone call right at the start of the procedure. Change of Location The experiment was moved to a set of run down offices rather than the impressive Yale University. Obedience dropped to This suggests that status of location effects obedience.

Two Teacher Condition When participants could instruct an assistant confederate to press the switches, When there is less personal responsibility obedience increases. Social Support Condition Two other participants confederates were also teachers but refused to obey.

Confederate 1 stopped at volts, and confederate 2 stopped at volts. Absent Experimenter Condition It is easier to resist the orders from an authority figure if they are not close by. When the experimenter instructed and prompted the teacher by telephone from another room, obedience fell to Many participants cheated and missed out shocks or gave less voltage than ordered to by the experimenter.

The proximity of authority figure affects obedience. Critical Evaluation Critical Evaluation The Milgram studies were conducted in laboratory type conditions, and we must ask if this tells us much about real-life situations.

We obey in a variety of real-life situations that are far more subtle than instructions to give people electric shocks, and it would be interesting to see what factors operate in everyday obedience.

The sort of situation Milgram investigated would be more suited to a military context. Do the findings transfer to females? This is because they became participants only by electing to respond to a newspaper advertisement selecting themselves. They may also have a typical "volunteer personality" — not all the newspaper readers responded so perhaps it takes this personality type to do so. Yet a total of participants were tested in 18 separate experiments across the New Haven area, which was seen as being reasonably representative of a typical American town.

Apparently, Protection of participants - Participants were exposed to extremely stressful situations that may have the potential to cause psychological harm. Many of the participants were visibly distressed.

Signs of tension included trembling, sweating, stuttering, laughing nervously, biting lips and digging fingernails into palms of hands. Three participants had uncontrollable seizures, and many pleaded to be allowed to stop the experiment.

Once the participants were debriefed and could see the confederate was OK their stress levels decreased. Milgram also interviewed the participants one year after the event and concluded that most were happy that they had taken part. However, Milgram did debrief the participants fully after the experiment and also followed up after a period of time to ensure that they came to no harm. Milgram debriefed all his participants straight after the experiment and disclosed the true nature of the experiment.

Participants were assured that their behavior was common and Milgram also followed the sample up a year later and found that there were no signs of any long-term psychological harm. In fact, the majority of the participants Right to Withdrawal - The BPS states that researchers should make it plain to participants that they are free to withdraw at any time regardless of payment. Did Milgram give participants an opportunity to withdraw? The experimenter gave four verbal prods which mostly discouraged withdrawal from the experiment: Please continue.

The experiment requires that you continue. It is absolutely essential that you continue. You have no other choice, you must go on. Milgram argued that they are justified as the study was about obedience so orders were necessary. Milgram Audio Clips Milgram Audio Clips Below you can also hear some of the audio clips taken from the video that was made of the experiment. Just click on the clips below.

You will be asked to decide if you want to open the files from their current location or save them to disk. Choose to open them from their current location. Then press play and sit back and listen! Clip 1 : This is a long audio clip of the 3rd participant administering shocks to the confederate. Clip 2 : A short clip of the confederate refusing to continue with the experiment.

Clip 3 : The confederate begins to complain of heart trouble. Clip 4 : Listen to the confederate get a shock: "Let me out of here. Let me out, let me out, let me out" And so on! Clip 5 : The experimenter tells the participant that they must continue. The milgram shock experiment. Simply Psychology. Some conditions of obedience and disobedience to authority. Human relations, 18 1 , Milgram, S. Obedience to authority: An experimental view.

Orne, M. On the ecological validity of laboratory deceptions. International Journal of Psychiatry, 6 4 , Shanab, M. A cross-cultural study of obedience. Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society. Smith, P.


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