Sociology 2233 Lecture Notes - Social Proof, Self-Justification, Complement Factor B

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28 Mar 2012
Unit 14: Obedience
Conformity in response to the commands of authority figures
Under strong social pressure, individuals will conform to authority, even when this means doing
something immoral
For example:
o Soldiers in WW2 followed the behaviour of others, who make killing seem like the right thing to
do (informational influence)
o Some wanted to avoid rejection from their peers (normative social influence)
o Soldiers obeyed authority figures (social norm), without questioning their actions
Milgrams Study of Obedience
Watch the Video
o Did participants obey?
o Did any participants give the maximum shock (50/100 participants)
o Did any of the participants stop the experiment when they heard the other person’s cries of
Experimental Methods
Milgram’s studies are an excellent example of the experimental method
Psychological realism: how real the study felt to the participants
o Everyone believed the study (effects of punishment on learning)
o Ability of the study to examine the effect of authority
Mundane realism: the extent that the experiment is similar to everyday life
o Not a good example
o Need to obey certain authorities on a daily basis but not to this extreme
Experimenter effects
o Said the same things to each participant must continue, etc.
o Different age range and educational backgrounds
o Mostly men but some women as well
Design and causality
o 3x more likely to shock when experimenter was present
o Legitimacy of authority figure increased likelihood of shocks
Milgram’s classic studies (1874) of obedience showed:
o 62.5% of participants obeyed to deliver the 450v shock, the maximum amount
o 80% continues giving them shocks even after they hear the receiver of shock screaming “Let me
out of here! My heart’s mothering me” (150v)
Reliability and Validity: Replicating Milgram
Would people still obey today?
Jerry Burger conducted a partial replication of Milgram’s obedience studies
70% of the base condition participants continued with the next time on the test
A few procedural changes should have made it easier for the participants to resist authority
Ex: the participants were told explicitly and repeatedly that they could leave the study at any time and
still keep their $50
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