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Discuss the findings of Milgram’s obedience studies.

Social Approach

Psychology Essays

 A Level/AS Level/O Level

Free Essay Outline

Briefly introduce Milgram's obedience studies, stating their aim - to investigate how far people would go in obeying an instruction if it involved harming another person.

Methodology and Findings
Describe Milgram's original experiment: the setup, the participants (40 males), the roles of the learner and the teacher, the shocks, and the experimenter's prods. State the main finding: 65% of participants continued to the highest level of 450 volts.

Variations and Their Impact
Discuss some of the variations Milgram conducted and how they affected obedience levels:

⭐Proximity of the learner (e.g., same room, touch proximity).
⭐Proximity and legitimacy of the authority figure.
⭐ Presence of dissenting "teachers."

Explain how each variation highlighted factors influencing obedience.

Conclusions and Implications
Summarize Milgram's conclusions about obedience to authority:

⭐ Ordinary people are surprisingly obedient to authority even when asked to do something that goes against their morals.
⭐ Situational factors have a powerful influence on obedience.

Ethical Considerations
Briefly discuss the ethical concerns raised by Milgram's studies, including deception, psychological harm, and right to withdraw. Mention how these concerns influenced ethical guidelines in psychological research.

Restate the significance of Milgram's findings and their lasting impact on our understanding of obedience and the power of the situation.

Free Essay

Stanley Milgram's obedience studies, conducted in the 1960s, aimed to investigate the extent to which individuals would obey an authority figure, even if it meant harming another person. These studies, while controversial, have provided profound insights into the nature of human obedience and the powerful influence of social situations.

Methodology and Findings
In Milgram's original experiment, 40 male participants were recruited through newspaper ads and told they were taking part in a study on learning and memory. They were assigned the role of "teacher" while a confederate, who was actually an actor, was assigned the role of "learner." The teacher was instructed to administer electric shocks to the learner whenever they made a mistake on a word-pair learning task. Each incorrect answer resulted in an increase in the shock level, ranging from 15 to 450 volts. The learner, positioned in another room, staged increasingly intense reactions to the shocks, including screams and pleas to stop. While the shocks were not real, the teacher believed they were, creating a realistic scenario of potential harm.
The experimenter, dressed in a lab coat and wielding the authority of science, urged the teacher to continue administering shocks, despite the learner's protests. The study's main finding was startling: a significant 65% of participants continued to administer shocks all the way to the highest level of 450 volts, despite their evident distress and moral reservations. This finding challenged the assumption that only individuals with psychopathic tendencies would be capable of such cruelty.

Variations and Their Impact
Milgram conducted a series of variations to explore factors influencing obedience. These variations revealed the impact of different situational variables on participants' behavior.

⭐Proximity of the learner: In variations where the learner was physically closer to the teacher, for example, in the same room or with the teacher required to physically force the learner's hand onto the shock plate, obedience levels decreased significantly. Closeness to the victim increased the participant's awareness of the learner's suffering, making it harder to ignore their pleas for mercy.
⭐Proximity and legitimacy of the authority figure: When the authority figure was absent or appeared less legitimate, obedience levels also decreased. For instance, when instructions were delivered over the phone or when the experimenter was replaced with a seemingly ordinary person, participants were less likely to obey.
⭐Presence of dissenting "teachers": In another variation, Milgram introduced confederate "teachers" who refused to continue administering shocks. This presence of dissenting voices significantly reduced the obedience rates. The presence of peers who defied authority provided social support for the participant, making it easier to resist the pressure to obey.

Each of these variations highlighted the interplay of situational factors, authority figures, and social pressure in determining obedience to authority.

Conclusions and Implications
Milgram's research led him to conclude that obedience to authority is a powerful phenomenon. His findings demonstrated that ordinary individuals are capable of committing acts that go against their morals when subjected to the pressures of a hierarchical social structure. He argued that the situation, rather than individual personality traits, played a dominant role in determining obedience.

⭐Ordinary people are surprisingly obedient to authority even when asked to do something that goes against their morals. This finding challenged the common belief that only individuals with deviant personalities are capable of such atrocities.
⭐ Situational factors have a powerful influence on obedience. The proximity of the authority figure, the presence of dissenting voices, and the perceived legitimacy of the authority all significantly influenced obedience levels.

Ethical Concerns
Milgram's studies faced significant ethical scrutiny. The use of deception, the potential for psychological harm to participants, and the lack of a clear right to withdraw were all major concerns. Participants were not fully informed of the study's true nature, they experienced significant stress and anxiety during the procedure, and it was unclear how readily they could have stopped participating. These concerns led to a reevaluation of ethical guidelines in psychological research, emphasizing the need for informed consent, minimal risk to participants, and the right to withdraw.

Milgram's obedience studies, despite their controversial nature, remain a landmark contribution to the field of social psychology. The findings have had a profound impact on our understanding of obedience to authority and the power of situational factors in shaping human behavior. While ethical concerns persist, Milgram's research continues to provide valuable insights into the complexities of human obedience and its potential consequences.

<p style="text-align: center;">References

<p style="text-align: center;"> Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral study of obedience. <i>Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology</i>, 67(4), 371-378.

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