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

Theories On Obedience

Extracts from this document...


Obedience Obedience is defined as a person obeying the orders or instructions from an authority figure. There are many studies and theories which attempt to explain obedience. Stanley Milgram conducted an experiment in 1960s with the aim of investigating whether people would obey a legitimate authority figure even if they were asked to do something that was clearly morally wrong. 40 male volunteers took part after seeing an advertisement asking for volunteers in a study about punishment and learning, they were told they would be paid for their time even if they didn't finish the study. The study was conducted in the prestigious Yale University. Milgram employed an ' experimenter ', who would be dressed in a white coat, and a ' learner ' who would look like a normal civilian who would be wired to an ' electric shock machine'. The participant, or 'teacher 'would be controlling the electric shock machine, and would be in an adjacent room to the learner. The teacher was required to ask the learner questions, and administer a (fake) electric shock of increasing voltage every time the learner gave a wrong answer. The learner was instructed to, at the level of 300 volts, to bang on the wall between himself and the participant and not respond to the next question, and same again at 315 V. ...read more.


Without the buffer the participant would have found it harder to continue. Gradual commitment would have also played a part in the levels of obedience. Gradual commitment means slowly agreeing to something in smaller steps, this can be applied to Milgrams study because the levels of electricity the participant thought he was administering started at a low level and increased in a low level (15V), because it was a relatively small increase it would not seem as bad as administering 450V straight away, also gradual commitment makes refusing the next instruction harder because it seems like such a small difference. It would mean you could end up agreeing to something that you wouldn't have originally, this can also be known as the 'foot in the door 'effect. The fact that the participants were told they would be paid, regardless of whether they finished the experiment or not could have contributed to the high levels of obedience. When the participant got to the point (around 300V) where they started to object, the fact that they knew the experimenter was paying them may have made them feel as though they had an obligation to continue the experiment regardless of the fact they thought it was wrong, the fact they were getting money could have influenced their decision to continue. ...read more.


* Immediacy: how close the group are to you (in space and time) at the time of the influence attempt. * Number: How many people there are in the group. Presence of allies means that when there are more people in the same position as you, if they refuse to obey, you would be less likely to obey. The number of authoritative figures would make you more obedient if there were more of them. The proximity of the victim means that in the Milgram study, if the learner was in the same room, the shocks were less likely to be administered, because their suffering was harder to ignore. In conclusion, obedience and how it is seen and understood is hard to fully explain, studies such as Milgram focus on and deduce that it is the pressure of the situation that produces such high levels of obedience, But Adorno suggested that the personality of the individual could influence the levels of obedience that resulted, and also the attitude and personality of the authority figure present. There are many complex factor that contribute to how obedience comes about, factor which probably cannot be explained by one theory alone as there are many different things, not just situation, that should be taken into account, especially because obedience is very difficult to actually measure properly. ...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.

    or they would press the button for a lesser shock than they ought to. * Another important factor emerged. On a number of occasions the experimenter was asked if he would accept responsibility for what happened, and he was scripted to say yes.

  2. Evaluation of Milgram's Obedience Study

    Baumrind says that the participants could not exercise their right to withdraw due to the pressure the experimenter applied. Milgram used four 'prompts' to get the teacher to continue, 'Please continue', 'The experiment requires that you continue', 'It is absolutely essential that you continue' and 'You have no other choice, you must go on'.

  1. Conformity and Obedience

    Later all participants received an extensive report on the findings and asked to fill in a questionnaire, 84% said they were glad to have taken part and only 1.3% regretted it. The vast majority said they had learned something valuable about themselves and stated that more research should be conducted.

  2. Psychology Questions Ansewered

    The restored group did not identify with their parents because it was hard to model yourself off someone who should have been looking after you but instead rejected you. The adopted group were more likely to model themselves off the parents because they felt closer and wanted to be like the persons who adopted them.

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

    By 270 volts his protests turn to screams of agony, and he continues insisting to be let out. At 300 to 315 volts he screams his refusal to answer, and finally at 330 volts he falls silent. The teacher was instructed that silence should be considered as a wrong answer and told to administer the punishment.

  2. Deindividuation theories.

    Further support arises from Johnson and Downing's KKK reinterpretation as mentioned earlier. Prentice-Dunn and Rogers induced deindividuation by instructing participants repeatedly to focus attention outwards (private self-awareness).

  1. Why do we obey authority?

    by an authoritative figure, this environment provided social legitimacy for their actions. The participants showed great distress, yet even after they pleaded with the onlooking scientist, his instructions to them were to continue. Hence, suggesting that they did so because they were simply obeying authority regardless of the consequences.

  2. Why do people obey? Two theories that explain obedience include: agency theory and legitimate ...

    Milgram's study was conducted in a laboratory which demonstrates high internal validity as all variables were highly controlled. It also allows the experiment to be easily replicated, something which Smith and Bond (1993) did across a variety of cultures and found levels of obedience varied between 16% to 90%.

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