Essay on Stanley Milgram

1913 Words8 Pages
This quote, by Stanley Milgram (1974, p. 205), exemplifies the debate that exists around the topic of obedience. Obedient behaviours have been studied in Milgram’s famous obedience experiments, and evidence of atrocities being carried out as a result of obedience can be seen in situations such as the holocaust in World War Two (Mastroianni, 2000) and more recent events such as (My Lai). This essay will explain both sides of the debate, arguing for situation and individual factors that influence people to behave in particular ways. Therefore, an interactional approach is argued here, that the situation and individual influences cannot be disentangled. A brief explanation of Milgram’s baseline study (1963) will be introduced first, before…show more content…
Proximity between the participant and the learner was changed, with it ranging from the learner not being heard or seen at all (yielding 100% obedience), to the participant holding down the learners hand and arm onto a metal plate, which they believed was shocking the learner (decreasing obedience to 30%). Milgram himself reported significant differences between these proximity conditions, but when Blass (1991) evaluated Milgram’s (1963) work, he reports the analyses and shows that regardless of whether a participant is close to the learner physically and emotionally, they still acted in a similar way. The fact that Milgram did not report these analyses also shows how there might have been some selective reporting in what he wanted the public to see. Blass’ (1991) analyses display how the situation was not necessarily that powerful, and that the participants acted in similar ways regardless of the different types of contexts they were put in. Furthermore, there was also another version of the study (state exactly which experiment this was) in which the participants could decide for themselves how much voltage to shock the learner to. It comes as a relief that they shocked significantly lower than the baseline conditions, showing that when the situation allows freedom, the individual can make a decision. However, I would argue that even though they had the freedom to administer the shock level of their choice, they still actually administered a
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