Behavioural Study of Obedience - Milgram (1963)

Aims

Investigate what level of obedience would be shown when participants were told by an authority figure to administer electric shocks to another person. participant group.

Participants

40 paid participants

Research Method

The research method used in this study was a Lab experiment.


Procedure


40 paid participants were deceived and told that they would take part in a study concerning the role of punishment in learning. A confederate of Milgram posed as the teacher who would be administered shocks from the participant if they did not correctly memorize pairs of words by indicating his answer using a system of lights. (Truly no shocks were administered) The participant sat in the same room as the experimenter, apart from where the teacher was suppose to be (truly a tape of recorded responses). They sat in front of a shock generator that had 30 levers that ranged from “slight shock” to “severe shock XXX.” The experimenter prompted the participant to continue at any sign of refusal using the following statements : Please continue (or “Please go on”). The experiment requires that you continue. It is absolutely essential that you continue. You have no other choice, you must go on.

Findings


All of the participants administered at least 300 volts . 65% of the participants (26 people) administered the full 450 volts, 35% stopped sometime before 450 volts. Although most participants showed clear signs of distress, dissented verbally, and wanted to stop and, they continued to obey the researchers who prompted them to go on. Denial/diffusion of responsibility was found to take place when some subjects denied taking any responsibility for the consequences. Remark of one subject :- “You want me to keep going? You hear him hollering? What if something happens to him? I refuse to take responsibility….”

Weaknesses


  • The participants where Deceived of the true purpose of the study and about the administered shocks.
  • Many participants showed clear signs of stress and anxiety throughout the experiment.
  • Withdrawal-prods used by the experimenter to get the participant to continue after refusing to do so suggested that withdrawal was not possible.(not ethically correct)
  • Small sample group (40)
  • gender bias and unrepresentative ; The participants were all males.
  • It is possible that being involved in the experiment may have had a long-term effect on the participants.

  • Ecological Validity


    Low ecological validity since the experiment was held in an unfamiliar room with the researcher along side the participant. Unrealistic setting with strange task to perform. Being paid might have increased the sense of obligation to continue on with the study ; results could have been different otherwise.

    Explanations


    Under certain circumstances where one is found in a subordinate state taking order from a dominant figure, a significant portion of normal individuals will feel pressured to obey even the most uncompassionate and unmoralistic orders.

    Strengths


  • High levels of control.
  • participants believed they were being randomly assigned to either the teacher or learner
  • they believed they were actually administering electric shocks, they all used the same apparatus, researchers used the same prods for all the participants

  • Ethics


    Deception caused visible symptoms of anxiety, and stress upon the participant throughout the experiment, which may have had a long-term effect on the participants.

    Milgram (1963)


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