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SOC101Y1 Lecture Notes - Stanley Milgram, Group Cohesiveness

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Robert Brym

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Oct. 13th, 2010
Networks, Groups and Bureaucracies
Intro: 1941 Russian train station: June 28th, hundreds of Soviet soldiers,
Nazi troops invaded Belarus a few days ago
How did an advanced society like Germany commit the crime of the
20th century?
Felt as if Jewish people, etc., threatened them
Norms of solidarity demand conformity – when we form relationships
we develop shared ideas OR norms of solidarity in order to sustain the
Soldiers often did not hate the people that they slaughtered, committed
atrocities to maintain group morale, social solidarity
Some heroes were anti-Semitic, what Christians had in common was
the fact that they were cut-off from mainstream norms early on
Poorly socialized, thus freer NOT to conform
Heroes tend to have unusual socialization patterns – freedom NOT to
conform to group norms later in life
Why most people conform:
1.NORMS of solidarity demand conformity.
2.STRUCTURES of authority tend to render people obedient.
3.BUREACRACIES in particular are highly effective structures of
For ex. Gangs do commit crimes as a means of maintaining social bonds,
preservation of solidarity of the group
Case study: Glen Ridge
Group of teenage boys lured a mentally disabled women, raped her in
Glen Ridge, New Jersey
Members of the community ostracized the girl; boys got miniscule
How do you explain this? Why did members of the community defend
the rapists?
Sociologist blamed the entire community for the rape, adhered to
values that were exaggerated
Community Values in Glen Ridge
Subordination of women
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Lack of compassion for the weak
Tolerance of male misconduct
Intense group loyalty
Raised to view women as subordinates, engaged in male misconduct
(parents always paid for damage, rationalized this by saying that β€œboys
will be boys,” were also football heroes of the town – this reinforced
group solidarity)
However, one boy was able to speak out against the group:
Charles was able to deviate from the group because he was black,
tolerated because of his athletic ability
Able to rise above the group norms, spoke out because they were doing
something wrong
Structures of Authority:
Structures of authority tend to render people obedient
Most people find it difficult to disobey authorities because they fear
ridicule, ostracism
Stanley Milgram: informed his experimental subjects that they were
going to observe people taking a test, and if they got wrong answers
they would be given an electric shock (would this improve their ability
to learn?)
Test subjects told to administer a shock for a man’s wrong answer
Whether or not people were prepared to administer shocks to
individuals (were able to leave at any time)
Mailgram would reassure them it wouldn’t hurt if they administered a
greater level of shock, even if the actor appeared to be in great pain
Obedience to authority increases with separation from the negative
effects of one’s actions
*Milgram’s experiment supports the view that separating people
from the negative effects of their actions increases the
likelihood compliance.
People willing to obey the structure authority
Tells us something important about how people react to authority
McDonald’s Documentary Clip
Employees strip-searched by managers; told to do so by someone who
posed as a police officer (managers were given instructions over the
What does this teach us? As soon as we are introduced to a
structural authority, we often comply.
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