Milgram study on Obedience
Relevant background information - Tested Milgrams theory ,based on past holocaust events, that anyone can commit horrendous crimes if placed in certain situations and given incentives. It also tested the theory of diffusion of responsibility .

Aim - Investigate what level of obedience would be shown when participants were told by an authority figure to administer electric shocks to another person. participant group.

Research method (i.ei case study, experiment, naturalistic observation , etc)-

How was data collected-
The researcher sitting in with them gathered data based on how many volts the participant administered , and also recorded what the participant said as well their behavior during the experiment.

What type of data was collected -
Both quantitative and qualitative data was collected . Quantitative data was based on the amount and level of voltage shock that the participant administered to the confederate teacher. Qualitative data was based on gathered information of the participants emotional state and behavior as the experiment was being conducted. Remarks from the subjects where also collected .
Procedure -
40 paid participants were deceived and told that they would take part in a study concerning the role of punishment in learning. A confederate of Milgram posed as the teacher who would be administered shocks from the participant if they did not correctly memorize pairs of words by indicating his answer using a system of lights. (Truly no shocks were administered) The participant sat in the same room as the experimenter, apart from where the teacher was suppose to be (truly a tape of recorded responses). They sat in front of a shock generator that had 30 levers that ranged from “slight shock” to “severe shock XXX.” The experimenter prompted the participant to continue at any sign of refusal using the following statements :
Please continue (or “Please go on”)
The experiment requires that you continue
It is absolutely essential that you continue
You have no other choice, you must go on
The experiment continued unless the participant refused to go on or reached the maximum of 450 volts and administered it 4 times.

Special equipment/materials?
  • Fake Shock generator and electrode attachments
  • light system to indicate answers
  • separate but conjoined rooms

Results -
All of the participants administered at least 300 volts . 65% of the participants (26 people) administered the full 450 volts, 35% stopped sometime before 450 volts. Although most participants showed clear signs of distress, dissented verbally, and wanted to stop and, they continued to obey the researchers who prompted them to go on. Denial/diffusion of responsibility was found to take place when some subjects denied taking any responsibility for the consequences.
Remark of one subject :- “You want me to keep going? You hear him hollering? What if something happens to him? I refuse to take responsibility….”

Conclusions (based off of results) -
Under certain circumstances where one is found in a subordinate state taking order from a dominant figure, a significant portion of normal individuals will feel pressured to obey even the most uncompassionate and unmoralistic orders.

strengths -
High level of control :-
  • participants believed they were being randomly assigned to either the teacher or learner
  • they believed they were actually administering electric shocks,
  • they all used the same apparatus, researchers used the same prods for all the participants

Weaknesses -
  • The participants where Deceived of the true purpose of the study and about the administered shocks.
  • Many participants showed clear signs of stress and anxiety throughout the experiment.
  • Withdrawal-prods used by the experimenter to get the participant to continue after refusing to do so suggested that withdrawal was not possible.(not ethically correct)
  • Small sample group (40)
  • gender bias and unrepresentative ; The participants were all males.
  • It is possible that being involved in the experiment may have had a long-term effect on the participants.

Ecological Validity -
Low ecological validity since the experiment was held in an unfamiliar room with the researcher along side the participant. Unrealistic setting with strange task to perform. Being paid might have increased the sense of obligation to continue on with the study ; results could have been different otherwise.

Ethics -
Deception caused visible symptoms of anxiety, and stress upon the participant throughout the experiment, which may have had a long-term effect on the participants