• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Should Milgram's experiments on obedience even have been conducted?

Extracts from this document...


Should Milgram's experiments on obedience even have been conducted? Consider the ethics of the experiments, the contribution of Milgram's findings to our scientific knowledge about social behaviour, and the relevance of the study to contemporary life in Britain today. Obedience is a type of social influence whereby somebody acts in response to a direct order from another person. In the past, obedience to authority has resulted in the mass slaughter of millions of innocent people as seen in World War II, and many other atrocities since then. This begs the question of what causes people to obey such orders. In a series of studies between 1960 and 1963, Stanley Milgram attempted to explain this aspect of human behaviour. Milgram's original experiment in 1960 involved 40 male participants who had been recruited through newspaper advertisements. The participants were told the study was an investigation into the effects of punishment on learning and memory, and were paid $4.50 for volunteering. The study took place in a laboratory in the prestigious Yale University in the USA. On arrival, the experimenter introduced two 'participants' to each other and they drew lots to determine who would be the 'teacher' and who would be the 'learner'. ...read more.


When the learner could not be seen by the teacher and heard no complaints, nearly all obeyed calmly to the end. However, when the learner was placed in the same room as the teacher, obedience levels dropped to 40 per cent. Also, when the teacher had to force the learner's hand onto the plate to receive the shock, only 30 per cent continued to 450 volts. This has consequences for the real world - we are now living in an age in which we are able to kill from great distances due to the development of technology and nuclear warfare. In combat with an enemy they can see, many soldiers will not aim or fire. However, this disobedience is rarely seen among those ordered to kill by means of the more distant aircraft weapons. A third factor to be considered is that of gradual commitment - the experiment started off with fairly trivial shocks, but once they had committed themselves to shocking they found it difficult to decide when to stop as each voltage increment was fairly small. This is known as the 'foot-in-the-door effect' and can be explained by the desire of people to appear consistent. Real-world relevance can also be seen here, in the return of the use of torture. ...read more.


Once children have been taught to ask questions rather than learn items by rote, then the seeds of future disobedience have been sown. Teachers and governments now have to convince an increasingly sceptical audience that obedience is necessary - and they have to produce reasons for this and accept that disobedience cannot be rectified by simply invoking superior social status and authority. To conclude, although much controversy has come out of Milgram's experiments, it has resulted in some very important findings - no one predicted that the level of obedience demonstrated by the participants would be so high. Many people would expect those participants who went all the way to the 450-volt shock level to be cruel, aggressive people, but repeated experiments in many different cultures and on many different people have all yielded similar results. These results have forced us to ask questions about what it is that caused the observed obedience, with analyses of these being of great importance in explaining and understanding the 'crimes of obedience' that have persisted in modern times. Studies such as Milgram's demonstrate that even 'ordinary' people are capable of cruelty in certain situations, and can be pressured to go against their own conscience. Therefore although such a study would never be allowed to take place today due to ethical considerations, I believe the findings of Milgram's study have been of great significance and it was rightfully conducted. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Social Psychology section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Social Psychology essays

  1. Conformity & Obedience to Authority.

    Milgram ran the same experiment at an office away from the university and the obedience level was still 49 percent, therefore this was not a major factor. * Milgram wanted to know if the nearness of the learner was a valid factor and if the teacher was in the same

  2. Conformity and Obedience

    This information was confirmed by an independent psychiatrist who interviewed the participants a year later and none of them showed any signs of being harmed by the experience.

  1. whether leading questions can affect a person's memory of a question and insert an ...

    However, 10% gave the incorrect answer despite the question being non-leading. The pie chart shows that all of the participants answered the question correctly and did not recall any kiwis. This was not anticipated due to the fact that they were asked the leading question.

  2. In his 1963 study, The Perils of Obedience, Stanley Milgram showed us that we ...

    Milgram's experiments first took place at Yale University and eventually involved over one thousand participants at several other universities. Two individuals were to enter a psychology laboratory and take part in a study of memory and learning. One of them was to be the teacher and the other one the student.

  1. Psychology Questions Ansewered

    [10] [ Questions such as this deliberately speak of methodology, ethics and ecological validity] [ Use examples from the study to show the above mentioned points. You can start off by stating the point and then launching into examples.

  2. Obedience means acting in response to a direct order, usually from an authority figure. ...

    Hofling et al investigated whether nurses would break hospital rules to obey a doctor. In this experiment nurses working in a hospital were phoned by an unknown doctor and asked to give a drug to a patient. To obey this request, nurses would break the rule of taking telephone instructions from an unknown doctor to administer drugs without completed paperwork.

  1. A study was conducted to see if there are gender differences in how aggressive ...

    Advantages of using a case study are that they offer in depth insight into an individual. The information obtained from research like this is far more detailed. Case studies can also open up new areas of research into situations that because of ethical reasons cannot be engineered.

  2. The Milgram Stanley 1963 Behavioural Study of Obedience

    It was made clear from the beginning that the participants were able to withdraw from the experiment at anytime but with the phrases used in the experiment such as ?You have no choice, you must go on?. This may have made the participant feel uncomfortable about disagreement with the experimenter.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work