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Milgram Obedience Study

Milgram (1963) Behavioural Study of Obedience

Rajiv Ariaraj

on 26 September 2016

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Transcript of Milgram Obedience Study

Milgram (1963)
The social area
Behavioural Study of Obedience
Born in 1933 in America from Jewish Descent
Worked at Yale University (one of the most prestigious in America)
Had previously worked with Asch (1955) on his studies on conformity
His studies on obedience are considered some of the most famous psychological studies, ever
Considered one of the most innovative psychologists in history
Are Germans Unique?
Milgram wanted to investigate
whether anyone could obey an authority figure in order to carry out horrific acts, or whether obedience was more common in Germans.
Is there a type of person who is more obedient? or
Does obedience depend on the situation you are in?
"The soldier does not wish to appear a
coward, disloyal, or un-American. The
situation has been so defined that he can
see himself as patriotic, courageous, and
manly only through compliance."
Stanley Milgram
Cultural rules and beliefs
affect what we consider to be
right and wrong.
Situational hypothesis
Obedience - Good or Bad?
It is important to note that society would not work if no one obeyed anyone at all. However it is the unquestioning, or blind obedience that was shown in World War Two that Milgram wanted to investigate.
To investigate what level of obedience participants would show when an authority figure told them to administer electric shocks to another person.
The people who are recruited to take part in the study.
Milgram recruited his participants by
putting out an advertisement in the newspaper, and sending out advertisements in the mail.

The advertisement stated that you would be paid $4.50 to take part in an experiment on memory and learning that would take an hour of your time.

You would receive the $4.50 just for turning up (you didn't need to complete the experiment).
Out of the 500 people advertised to, Milgram recruited:
40 Males, aged 20 - 50
All from New Haven, Connecticut
The participants came from a variety of backgrounds.
Some were postal clerks, teachers, salesmen, engineers and laborers. A few had completed degrees and qualifications, while others had dropped out of high school.
This type of recruiting is called
A self-selecting sample
The range of participants recruited for the study
Participants come to the study themselves and are not chosen by the experimenter
How the experiment was conducted
Participants took part in the experiment one at a time. They were told that the the purpose of the study was about memory and DID NOT know that real aim of the study was to test obedience.
The Fake Experiment
In order to keep the true purpose of the experiment hidden, participants believed that this was the experiment that they were taking part in.
1. Three people are involved in the study. Two participants and the experimenter.
2. The participants draw lots and are given their roles,
One is assigned the role of "
The other is assigned the role of "
3. The three go into a room with a chair that has electrodes strapped to it. The learner is told to sit in the chair. Electrodes are attached to the learner, and straps are fitted on to the learner to prevent him from leaving.
4. The task is explained by the experimenter. The learner has to remember a series of word pairs e.g. BLUE HOUSE. The teacher will give a word to the learner and then 4 options (ABCD). The learner has to decide which of the 4 options correctly corresponds to the word. The learner answers by pushing one of the buttons (ABCD).
5. For every incorrect answer, the learner is told he will receive an electric shock. The shock will get worse for every incorrect answer. The teacher is given a small shock so they have an understanding of what kind of pain it causes.
6. The teacher and experimenter leave the
learner and go into another room. In that room is a microphone to the learner and a shock generator that is attached to the learner's chair in the other room.
The shock generator has 30 switches labeled with different voltages - ranging from 15V to 450V.
The voltages are clearly labeled with warning signs.
Very strong
7. The experimenter stays with the teacher as he asks the learner questions and shocks him with an increasingly high voltages as he gets incorrect answers.
The Real Experiment
What Milgram was really testing
1. Out of the three people taking part, only the teacher was a real participant. The experimenter and the learner were both actors.
2. The experimenter was cast as 31 year old, appeared to be stern and wore a white lab coat. He was meant to be the AUTHORITY figure in the study.

The learner was a 47 year old, mild mannered and likeable person who said he was an accountant.
3. The lots that were drawn were rigged so that the participant always ended up as the teacher while the fake participant would be the learner.
5. As the teacher questions the learner, the answers that the learner gives are predetermined, so every participant gave the same amount of shocks for incorrect answers.
6. Once the teacher had got up to 300V for incorrect answers, he would hear the learner banging on the wall (as if trying to call off the experiment).

After 315V, the knocking stopped - as did the answers from the learner (this was to make the teacher believe that the learner was seriously injured, or had died).
7. In later experiments, the teacher could hear the learner's screams of pain coming from the other room, eventually the learner would cry out - calling for the experiment to stop.
8. These cries of pain were in fact pre-recorded and played over a speaker, although the teacher believed they were really coming from the learner.
4. The shock machine that the teacher was using was not connected to the learners chair at all. The teacher was NOT ACTUALLY SHOCKING the learner, he only believed he was.
9. If the teacher felt uncomfortable giving the shocks, or asked for the experiment to stop - the experimenter had a series of prompts to give the participant.
Experimenter Prods
1. 'Please Continue' or 'Please go On'

2. 'The experiment requires that you continue'

3. 'It is absolutely essential that you continue'

4. 'You have no other choice, you must go on'
The experimenter would also tell the learner that the "shocks" being administered were not harmful, and whether the learner liked it or not, the experiment must continue.
What Milgram was really testing was
How far the teacher would obey the experimenter until he called off the experiment.
Milgram measured how high the obedience of each participant was by recording how many volts the teacher was administered until they either gave up or reached the 450V (final) mark.
What the experiment was measuring was levels of obedience. This is what is known as
the dependent variable (DV)
Obedience was measured by seeing how many volts each participant would "shock" the learner with until they stopped.
Milgram and other psychologists predicted that 1.2% of participants would administer fatal voltages of "shocks" to the learner.
of all the participants went all the way up to 450V "shocks".
ALL 40 participants went up to 300Vs
5 refused to continue after 300Vs
9 more had stopped by 375V
What do the results mean?
Milgram found that there was an
unexpected level of obedience from the participants.
Just like the Germans in World War Two, Americans were also performing painful acts, even so far as "killing" an innocent person, simply because a figure of authority was telling them to do it.
In addition to recording the voltages, Milgram also observed the participants' behaviour to see how they reacted during the experiment.
Despite obeying the authority figure, participants also displayed signs of stress including:
Lip Biting
Biting their nails
Nervous Laughing
3 Participants had violent convulsions
"I observed a mature and initially poised businessman enter the laboratory smiling and confident. Within 20 minutes he was reduced to a twitching, stuttering wreck, who was rapidly approaching a point of collapse. He constantly pulled on his earlobe and twisted his hands. At one point he pushed his fist into his forehead and muttered 'Oh God, let's stop it'. And yet he continued to respond to every word of the experimenter, and obeyed to the end."
Quantitative results
Qualitative results
Germans are not different. Obedience comes from the situation you find yourself in. (Situational not individual)
Why did so many people obey?
Milgram suggested a number of reasons:
The study took place at a prestigious university (Yale) which made the study seem important.
The participants believed the learners (being "shocked") had volunteered for the study.
The experimenter in the white lab coat also reinforced the idea that this was a scientific study.
As the learner did not complain until 300V, they felt that it was okay to continue.

Participants felt guilty for stopping the experiment as they had been paid.
The experimenter told the participants that the shocks would not cause permanent damage.
Each shock was only a slightly higher voltage than the one before it so there was no obvious place to stop.
There was little time for the teacher to resolve the conflict.
Who to please?
The Experimenter
The Learner
Following the behaviour of listening to authority figures and to "do as your are told".
Following the behaviour of not harming others and refuse to continue the experiment.
10. Participants were told the true purpose of the experiment afterwards their mental well being checked before they left.
What were the strengths and weaknesses of the study?
Ecological Validity
How much like real life is the study?
Psychological studies can sometimes get caught up in what they are measuring they forget that the real world is different to the lab. If a study creates a situation that never really happens in real life, the results can be seen to be less valid (less trustworthy).
A good way to test ecological validity is to simply ask yourself "could this ever happen to me in the real world?"
Would you ever get asked to administer electric shocks to a person?
No? Then Milgram's experiment has LOW ecological validity.
Has the way the study has been designed got any faults?
Is the
Is there a wide variety of participants?
Is there a mixture of genders?
Is there a variety of ages?
Do the participants come from different countries/ races?
Do they all have different jobs/ incomes/ backgrounds?
Are they from different social classes
Milgram originally wanted to see how Germans could obey to kill Jews in the Holocaust. How is Milgram's study different?
As far as possible, a study should try to test as many different types of participant as possible. Some participants may react differently to others.
Would Milgram's participants have reacted differently if they heard a woman screaming instead of a man?
What was the sample in Milgram's study?
How could you have made it more diverse?
Because Milgram's participants all came from America, the study can be called
There is not a diverse range of ethnic minorities or races.
Milgram used a volunteer sample, how might this make the results LESS generalisable?
What could be common traits of people who respond to advertisements to take part in psychological experiments?
Participants who are all alike make the study LESS GENERALISABLE.
Are participants showing
Demand Characteristics?
If a participant discovers what the purpose of the experiment is, they can act in a certain way that might ruin the results of the experiment.
If you were taking part in the Milgram study and you worked out what the true purpose of the experiment was, what might you do?
Please the experimenter by purposely acting more obedient so that they get the results that they want.
Screw over the experimenter and "win" by purposing behaving in a way that that would disprove obedience by immediately ending the study.
Either way, the results of the study are ruined because the participants are not acting naturally.
If the participants are acting in anyway, the results become invalid.
They are demonstrating demand characteristics.
Was there any evidence that Milgram's participants had "caught on" to the true purpose of the experiment and had exhibited demand characteristics?
A participant might realise the purpose of the study in several ways. The experimenter accidentally lets something slip, unconsciously emphasize a certain task or the participant may have studied psychology and worked out the purpose on their own.
The larger the sample size, the more generalisable the study is.
Being able to evaluate each of the core studies is critically important in order to do well in psychology. All of the studies can be evaluated in a similar way, using the methods that we will go over.
Evaluating a study is essentially assessing what the strengths and weaknesses of it are.

No study is perfect. By evaluating a study, it can be replicated (done again) and improved upon in the future.
How old is the study?
Results that were collected decades ago might not be valid for people today.
Milgram's study took place in 1963. Are people different today than they were back then? Would that make a difference in results?
Is it easy to replicate the study?
Psychologists at the time predicted that 1.2% of people would obey all the way up to 450V. What percentage of people do you think were obedient?
This can also be called
A Self Selecting Sample
Important Note:
ONLY participants who went up to the FULL 450V were classed as "obedient" by Milgram.
The qualitative results in Milgram's study were the observations of the participants behaviour in the room. Looking back at Derren Brown's video, what can you tell from the way the participants are acting? Even if they are obedient do they seem happy about it?
There are two questions you need to ask when assessing he reliability of a study.
Is the study easy to repeat?
Have the participants all gotten the same/ similar results?
(internal reliability)
(external reliability)
Why does having a well
study make it easier to repeat?
To see if a study is valid or not we ask one question...
Is the study measuring what it is supposed to measure?
What is Milgram's study measuring?
Is there any reason why someone would shock someone else other than just being obedient?
Some people are just sick!
How could Milgram have definately made sure that none of his participants did not enjoy hurting other people?
Other people and the environment influence behaviour and thought processes.
It is
because in order to accurately research social environments, it relies on conducting research that is ecologically valid.
Areas of psychology
There are lots different ways psychologists can explain human behaviour. Unlike other sciences, psychologists do not agree on a single explanation of it's findings.
What we do is influenced by OTHER PEOPLE.
What we do is influenced by the way we THINK.
What we do is influenced by our AGE.
What we do is influenced by our BIOLOGY.
Social Area
What side of the debate does the social area side?
How can other people influence our behaviour?
Write down all the ways we can communicate with one another.
Humans like social contact. It can have positive effects on us such as encouragement, inspiration and friendship - but it can also have negative effects.
Social experiments often reveal that social contact can make us act in ways that we know are wrong, but do them anyway.
Asch (1951)
Studied conformity
What types of people would you take orders from?
The main social behaviour we will focus on is:
The key theme of this study:
The Holocaust
When obedience was deadly
During World War 2 hundreds of Nazi Soldiers assisted in the genocide of the Jewish people.
At it's peak 12,000 defenseless people were murdered every day. It is estimated that six million Jews were killed in total.
One Nazi, Adolf Eichmann was personally responsible for transportation and death of millions of Jews.
After the war he was caught and put on trial in 1961.

"Once again I would stress that I am guilty of having been
"I cannot recognize the verdict of guilty… these misdeeds did not happen according to my wishes. It was not my wish to slay people. The guilt for the mass murder is solely that of the political leaders."
having subordinated myself to my official duties and the obligations of war service and my oath of allegiance and my oath of office."
What verdict would you have given?
Pack page 1
Ethical Issues
As psychological research has the potential to hurt and harm people psychological associations such as the british psychological society (BPS) have a guideline of issues that researchers should try to follow.
The issues come under 4 main categories:
Participants should be made aware that they can leave the research at any point in the study. There should be no pressure put on participants to stay, and any rewards offered for taking part in research (e.g. money) should still be awarded.
Each participant must give formal permission to take part in research. This is best obtained by signing a form before the research begins. Under-16s should have a parent sign on their behalf.
Individual participants should not be named when results of research are published, unless they have given permission. If you need to refer to individual participants then only their initials should be used.
Informed consent

At the end of research participants should be told about the purpose of the study, why they have taken part and researchers should answer any questions the participant may have.
Research should not harm participants, either physically or mentally through distress or emotional pain.
Protection from harm

Psychologists should conduct research only in areas in which they are familiar. They should not try to use technical equipment or engage in any form of psychological practice (e.g. therapy) that they are not trained in using.
Where possible, participants should not be lied to about the purpose of the study and should be fully informed about why they are taking part in the research.
is another way of saying controlled)
Population Validity
Is the sample generalisable?
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