How far are you willing to obey?
A man in a lab coat
A man in an army
A sports coach
Hit a stranger
Hand over money
Lie on the pavement
Stand on one leg
Kill a stranger
A type of social influence
To act in response to a direct order from
a figure with perceived authority.
Who in our society has perceived
authority (i.e. who’s orders would
you follow without question?)
Stanley Milgram (1963)
Is obedience bad?
“Obedience is as basic an element in the structure of
social life as one can point to. Some system of
authority is a requirement of all communal living.”
“…from 1933-1945 millions of innocent persons
were systematically slaughtered on
command…These inhumane policies may have
originated in the mind of a single person, but they
could only be carried out on a massive scale if a
very large number of people obeyed orders.
Milgram was interested in destructive
obedience where orders are obeyed even
though the individual understands the
Oversaw the deaths of 6 million
He had only been “following
Many other Nazi’s who stood
trial also gave the same
Political theorist Hannah Arendt
observed Eichmann's trial
“It would have been comforting indeed
to believe that Eichmann was a
monster…The trouble with Eichmann
was precisely that so many were like
him, and that the many were neither
perverted nor sadistic, that they were
and still are terribly and terrifyingly
What implications does this have?
The “Germans are Different” hypothesis
Germans have an authoritarian personality
Hostile to people of a lower status
Being servile to those of a higher status
Uphold the norms of society and are intolerant of
Milgram wanted to test the “Germans are
He believed obedience could be explained by
dispositional, rather than situational factors.
By creating a controlled environment, he
could assess obedience. He could then
alter variables to see what effect they had
Volunteers were recruited for a lab experiment investigating “learning” (re:
ethics: deception). Participants were 40 males, aged between 20 and 50,
whose jobs ranged from unskilled to professional.
At the beginning of the experiment they were introduced to another
participant, who was actually a confederate of the experimenter
(Milgram). They drew straws to determine their roles – leaner or teacher –
although this was fixed and the confederate always ended to the learner.
There was also an “experimenter” dressed in a white lab coat, played by an
actor (not Milgram).
The “learner” (Mr. Wallace) was strapped to a chair in another room with
electrodes. After he has learned a list of word pairs given him to learn, the
"teacher" tests him by naming a word and asking the learner to recall its
partner/pair from a list of four possible choices.
The teacher is told to administer an electric shock every time the
learner makes a mistake, increasing the level of shock each time.
There were 30 switches on the shock generator marked from 15
volts (slight shock) to 450 (danger – severe shock).
The learner gave mainly wrong answers (on purpose) and for each of
these the teacher gave him an electric shock. When the teacher
refused to administer a shock and turned to the experimenter for
guidance, he was given the standard instruction /order (consisting of
Prod 1: please continue.
Prod 2: the experiment requires you to continue.
Prod 3: It is absolutely essential that you continue.
Prod 4: you have no other choice but to continue.
Beforehand, Milgram discussed his
experiment with both a group of psychology
majors, and a number of colleagues. He
asked them to estimate how many
participants would administer the full
450volts. They estimated ___
0 to __%.
The minimum shock given was 300v.
This was when the learner started to protest
5 participants (12.5%) went no further
26 participants (65%) gave the full 450V
More quantitative data
glad/very glad to take part
were neutral about having taken
were very sorry to have taken part
said more experiments like this
should be carried out
they had learned something of
What is the main conclusion?
Ordinary people are shockingly obedient to
In certain situations, people would kill a stranger
The situation caused people do be highly
13 Factors of obedience
Match up the sentence ends with the
In two teams, evaluate the study with regards to
strengths and weaknesses
Produce a poster which sums up your key
Prep for Tuesday
With reference to alternative evidence.
critically assess Milgram’s study (12) (AO2)
You need to compare the results of Milgram’s
study with alternative evidence
You need at least one piece of evidence which
supports/develops Milgram’s findings, and one
If there are any weaknesses with Milgram’s
study, has alternative research addressed this?
Sheridan and King (1972)
Small puppy was used as the victim - real
electric shocks. Puppy was in the same room,
and could be seen yelping as the shocks were
75% of participants administered the highest
shocks. Women obeyed more than the men.
What does this suggest?
Hoffling et al (1966)
Nurses phoned by a “Dr Smith”, asked to
give 20mg of a fictional drug called
Astrogen to a patient. Contravened hospital
regulations and the dosage was twice that
of what was advised on the bottle.
21 out of 22 (95%) of nurses carried out the
Milgram’s study may have lacked
ecological validity. What do the
results of this experiment suggest?
Rank and Jacobson (1977)
Replicated Hoffling, but used the
real drug Valium, and nurses
were allowed to consult with their
16 out of 18 (89%) refused to
With reference to Milgram’s
conclusions, how can we
explain this result?
18 variations on the original study
Experimenter absent: the experimenter left the room,
giving instructions over the phone. Obedience dropped to
Presence of allies: two other ‘teachers’ in the room
(actually confederates of the study) who disobeyed the
experimenter. Obedience dropped to 10%.
Proximity: The learner was in the same room as the
teacher. Obedience dropped to 40%
What can you conclude from this evidence?
Reserve Police Battalion 101
Carried out a mass killing of Jews in a small town.
Soldiers were allowed to refuse. Trapp was not
present during the killing, the battalion were face to
face with their victims, and some in the battalion
However, most obeyed the orders.
This was a real life case of obedience. What
factors should have reduced the obedience?