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Bedience and Conformity

Obedience is the result of social influence, where somebody acts in response to a direct order from an authority figure. It is assumed that without an order a person would have not performed in this manner. An example of an activity of obedience could be if a woman was causing havoc in a restaurant for no reason and then the manager asks her to stop the inappropriate behaviour, therefore the woman agrees; this would be an act of obedience. On the other hand, disobedient behaviour would be the opposite of the previous example and, so in the example the woman might have rebelled or ignored the manager’s request.

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Stanley Milgram’s lab experiment was a lab experiment took place in 1963, where he carried out a series of studies to try and shed some light on this aspect of human behaviour. There were 40 male volunteer’s in Milgram’s study, who were all male, which tells one that it was Endocentric, the volunteers were also all American’s telling us that the experiment was Ethnocentric. From this information we can acknowledge that the experiment will lack ecological validity due to only a small percentage of the population taking part in the sample.

The participants were paid $4.50 each and were told that they were going to contribute into the study about the role of punishment in learning, from this we can identify that Milgram had lied to the genuine participants even before the experiment took place, showing the criticism of deception to participants. The genuine participant was given the task of being the teacher, therefore he would administer the shock voltage given to the learner which started and went up by 15 volts every time the learner (confederate) failed to memorise the words. If the teacher hesitated to administer the shock then the researcher would persuade the participant to continue and told them that they are fully responsible for any harm, this was even more believable to the genuine participant as the researchers and Milgram wore a white lab coat as an authority symbol.

The findings convey that all of the genuine participants went up to the voltage of at least 300 on the shock generator, whereas 65% administered the shock up to 450 volts, which is enough to kill a human being. Although most participants found the procedure very stressful and wanted to stop verbally, they continued anyway as the researcher persuaded them to do so. Some participants even displayed signs of extreme anxiety. Orne and Holland (1968) claimed that the study lacked experimental, internal validity and that the participants ‘were only going along with the act’. Milgram’s lab experiment also lacked resemblance to real life situations, therefore is lacked ecological validity.


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