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Theories On Obedience

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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.

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