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Outline and Evaluate Research Into Obedience

  • Date Submitted: 03/12/2015 01:11 PM
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Outline and evaluate research into obedience to authority
(12 marks)

Milgram recruited 40 male participants who were volunteers to take part in a study that supposedly focused on how the role of punishment affects learning. The participants were paid $4.50 and told that they would receive this even if they quit during the study. The procedure involved the real participant in addition to two confederates; the experimenter (who posed as an authority figure) and a 47 year old accountant who played the part of the 'learner.' The teacher was told that he must administer increasingly strong electric shocks to the learner each time he got a question wrong on the learning task. The machine was tested on the learner to show him that it worked. The learner sat in another room, gave mainly wrong answers and received his fake shocks in silence until they reached 300 volts (very strong shock). At this point he pounded on the wall and then gave no further response to the next question. He repeated this at 315 volts and from then on said or did nothing. Whenever the 'teacher' asked to stop, the experimenter had certain prompts that would incline him to continue such as; 'It is absolutely essential that you continue,' or 'You have no other choice, you must go on.'

The findings of the experiment proved shockingly, as 65% of the participants continued to 450 volts - the maximum voltage. All participants went to 300 volts and only five (12.5%) stopped at that point, the point when the learner first objected. These findings demonstrate that ordinary people are surprisingly very obedient to authority, even when asked to behave in an inhumane manner. This suggested that it is not evil people who commit atrocities on a mass scale but decent and ordinary people who are just obeying orders. The experiment highlighted the underlying cause to why millions of Jews were massacred at Jewish concentration camps in Auschwitz in Germany.

Milgram deceived his participants by telling...

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