Outline and evaluate research into obedience to authority
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 ...view middle of the document...
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 them that they were involved in a study of the effects of punishment on learning, rather than telling them the true purpose of the experiment. Although he argued that the experiment would have been meaningless without some degree of deception, which meant the participants had to be denied the right to informed consent. Despite this, many of the participants subsequently felt that had learned something which was of personal importance as a result of their participation. In Milgram's study it was not clear to what extent participants knew they were free to leave at any time, as demonstrated by the fact that they had the right to withdraw. Baumrind (1964) attacked Milgram's study claiming he placed his participants under great emotional strain, causing psychological damage to them that could not be justified. In addition Darley (1992) proposed a chilling effect of participation in Milgram's study. He suggests that the experience of administering shocks (even though they were not real) may activate a previously dormant aspect of an individual's personality such that they feel more able and more motivated to repeat the actions. According to Orne & Holland (1968) there is doubt about the internal validity of Milgram's research, e.g. despite the fact that the learner cries out in pain, the experimenter remains cool and distant. Leading the participants to suppose that the victim cannot really be suffering any real harm- and this who so many of them were ready to administer all the shocks.