Obedience To Authority Essay

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While both are forms of social influence, we most often tend to conform to our peers, whereas we obey those in positions of authority.

Furthermore, the pressure to conform tends to be implicit, whereas the order to obey is typically rather explicit.

Milgram used newspaper ads to recruit men (and in one study, women) from a wide variety of backgrounds to participate in his research. Still others, however, continued to present the questions, and to administer the shocks, under the pressure of the experimenter, who demanded that they continue.

When the research participant arrived at the lab, he or she was introduced to a man who the participant believed was another research participant but who was actually an experimental confederate. In the end, 65% of the participants continued giving the shock to the learner all the way up to the 450 volts maximum, even though that shock was marked as “danger: severe shock,” and there had been no response heard from the participant for several trials.

But perhaps most telling were the studies in which Milgram allowed the participants to choose their own shock levels or in which one of the experimenters suggested that they should not actually use the shock machine.

In these situations, there was virtually no shocking. Transformational leader behaviors and their effects on followers’ trust in leader, satisfaction, and organizational citizenship behaviors. After the experimenter gave the “teacher” a sample shock (which was said to be at 45 volts) to demonstrate that the shocks really were painful, the experiment began. To demonstrate this, Milgram conducted research that explored a number of variations on his original procedure, each of which demonstrated that changes in the situation could dramatically influence the amount of obedience. This figure presents the percentage of participants in Stanley Milgram’s (1974) studies on obedience who were maximally obedient (that is, who gave all 450 volts of shock) in some of the variations that he conducted. The research participant first read the list of words to the learner and then began testing him on his learning. In the initial study, the authority’s status and power was maximized—the experimenter had been introduced as a respected scientist at a respected university. Milgram was interested in understanding the factors that lead people to obey the orders given by people in authority. He then asked them what percentage of “other people” would be likely to use the highest end of the shock scale, at which point the three groups demonstrated remarkable consistency by all producing (rather optimistic) estimates of around 1% to 2%. (Eds.), International handbook of personality and intelligence. He designed a study in which he could observe the extent to which a person who presented himself as an authority would be able to produce obedience, even to the extent of leading people to cause harm to others. The results of the actual experiments were themselves quite shocking. The shock panel, as shown in Figure 6.9, “The Shock Apparatus Used in Milgram’s Obedience Study,” was presented in front of the teacher, and the learner was not visible in the shock room. However, in replications of the study in which the experimenter’s authority was decreased, obedience also declined. The experimenter sat behind the teacher and explained to him that each time the learner made a mistake the teacher was to press one of the shock switches to administer the shock. In one replication the status of the experimenter was reduced by having the experiment take place in a building located in Bridgeport, Connecticut, rather than at the labs on the Yale University campus, and the research was ostensibly sponsored by a private commercial research firm instead of by the university. Hogg (Eds.), Leadership and power: Identity processes in groups and organizations (pp. These conditions show that people do not like to harm others, and when given a choice they will not. On the other hand, the social situation can create powerful, and potentially deadly, social influence. When another research participant (again an experimental confederate) began by giving the shocks but then later refused to continue and the participant was asked to take over, only 10% were obedient. A power/interaction model of interpersonal influence: French and Raven thirty years later. And if two experimenters were present but only one proposed shocking while the other argued for stopping the shocks, all the research participants took the more benevolent advice and did not shock. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 7(2), 217–244.


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