Milgrams Behavioral Study of Obedience

Milgram’s study on obedience is possibly the most famous psychological experiments to date. Stanley Milgram was highly curious about Nazi Germany particularly the Holocaust. As he was Jewish, Milgram felt a sense of identification with those who had suffered. Milgram was mainly curious as to how something like the Holocaust could have occurred. Milgram hypothesised that German people were simply more obedient than others; they were more likely to follow the orders (however ludicrous) or an authority figure. Milgram’s objective was to prove this using American people to compare American with.

Aim: To show that Germans were more obedient than Americans

Sample: Milgram’s obtained his sample through direct mail and newspaper adverts in the New haven area. The advertisements stated that male volunteers between the ages of 20 and 50 were requested for a study on learning and memory at Yale university. The sample consisted of 40 males fitting Milgram’s criteria with a variety of occupation such as clerks, labourers and barbers. The participant were paid $4 for an hour plus 50cents cab fare; they were told that they would be given this for simply turning up.

Procedure: One participant and an actor ( the participant did not know this was an actor) were told by the experimenter about the known relationship between punishment and learning. They were then allocated the roles of teacher and learner through fixed lottery (the participant would always be the teacher). The learner would then be taken to and adjacent room and then strapped to an electric chair and electrodes were attached to his wrists. The experimenter then stated that the shocks call not cause any permanent tissue damage. The subject administered a learning task; reading a series of word pairs and then reading the first of the pairs and then asking the learner which of four words was originally paired with the word. The learner indicted his response by pressing one of four switches which lit up one of four lights in the adjacent room. The teacher controlled a shock generator’ consisting of 30 lever switches ranging from 15 to 450 volts. Each subject was given a 45 volt. For each of the learner’s incorrect answers the teacher administered a shock to the learner which increased by 15 volts each time. At 300 volts the learner banged on the wall. If the teacher protested the experimenter would say, “Please continue” or 3 other prods. The experiment would end when the teacher reached 450 volts or chose to end the experiment.

Results: All participants went up to 300 volts. 26 went up to 450 volts. Many showed signs of tension such as sweating, trembling, biting their lips and grunting.

Conclusions: People will generally obey