Psychological Studies on Conformity and Obedience

This essay begins by distinguishing conformity and obedience and their terms. Evaluating two psychological studies conducted by Salomon Asch (1956) and Crutchfield (1962), seeking to explain why people conform; identifying ethical and psychological issues, and some controversial arguments for the studies validity. Evaluating Moscovici’s (1969) explanation about minority influence. Evaluating Milgram’s (1974) studies of obedience. Assessing whether knowledge gained about human behaviour justifies Milgram’s (1974) experiments.

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People often change their attitudes to match others for so many reasons; one reason for this conformity is the concern about what other people may think and by the influence that society has on individuals. Conformity refers to an individual’s tendency to follow the unspoken rules or behaviours of a social group of which the individual belongs to; either from peer pressure or fear of rejection. (Hill, G. 2009, p.48) Cites as simplified by Crutchfield (1962) as ‘yielding to group pressure’.

Obedience, however, relates to the social power which leads an individual to act in response from a direct order usually by an authority figure, resulted from the fear of punishment. (McLeod, S. A. 2007b) Cites obedience involves a hierarchy of power. Conformity, Obedience and their aspects were studied aiming to identify how individuals would react under pressure, identifying the types of social powers surrounding society.

(Cardwell, M. and Flanagan, C. 2008, p. 148) Cites Asch (1956) conducted a study aiming to discover the social pressure or the social norm that could potentially impact the effect that leads individuals to conform. Asch’s (1956) original study, called the ‘line study’, had many variations which sought to find which of those variables could have a major impact with the levels of conformity within individuals. (McLeod, S. A. 2008) Cites study participants who answered in private had a decrease on conformity levels as the group pressure decreased, and normative influence was not as powerful. (McLeod, S.A. 2008) Cites Asch (1956), in a variation of the original experiment, introduced one participant to go against the majority, which showed a reduction on conformity levels. (Cardwell, M., Flanagan, C 2008, p.149) Cites Asch (1956) studied the effects of the size of majority and found that there was an increase in conformity levels when the majority consisted of just one, two or three individuals. However, increasing the size of the majority group beyond that did not affect the conformity levels; concluding that the size of the group is important but to a certain point. (Hill, G. 2009, p.48) Cites Asch (1956) concluded there were many factors which contributed to the levels of conformity; by distortion of perception, distortion of judgement and distortion of action; therefore, breaking the group’s consensus.

(McLeod, S. A. 2016) Cites Kelman (1958) suggested conformity can be identified through as compliance (change in behaviour without a change in opinion), as internalisation (change of behaviour and opinion) and identification (change of behaviour and opinion to identify with a certain group). (Cardwell, M., Flanagan, C 2008, p.149) Cites a recent researcher, Lucas et al. (2006), highlighted that when individuals are facing a difficult task such as math’s problems, the self-efficacy of the individual’s moderates the level of conformity. These researchers concluded that, in an Asch type task, participants with more confidence in their abilities remained more independent than low-self-efficacy participants. Another research compiled information confirming why this was possible; Berns et al. (2005) conducted a scan of a working brain. (Cardwell, M., Flanagan, C. 2008, p.149) Cites the findings confirmed that conformity showed up as activity in regions of the brain that were entirely devoted to perception, whereas independence of judgement showed up as activity in brain areas involving emotion; demonstrating the changes within the brain by the exposure to attitudes or beliefs from an individual, leader or powerful majority.

(Hill, G. 2009, p.49) Cites Crutchfield (1954) also conducted a study about conformity but without physical presence; individuals were allocated in individual cubicles with electronic display boards. Crutchfield (1954) supposedly told individuals the answers from the other participants. (Hill, G. 2009, p.49) Cites Crutchfield (1954) after tested his subjects for conformity; participants completed a test for personality and I.Q type tests. (Cardwell, M., Flanagan, C. 2008, p.150) Cites findings reflect that individuals who conformed the most were typically less intellectual, had less ego strength, had less leadership ability and were narrower minded.

(Hill, G. 2009, p.49) Cites McGuire (1968a) found inconsistency of conformity across different situations; referred to as social theories of conformity. (Hill, G. 2009, p.49) Cites as referred to by Deutsch and Gerard (1955) Informational Social Influence (which reflects the need that everyone has for certainty) and Normative Social Influence (which reflects the need for social acceptance and approval from others from potentially embarrassing situations such as disagreeing with the groups or faced with a conflict). Individuals are more likely to refer to another person’s perspective. (Hill, G. 2009, p.49) Cites Turner (1991) referred to as Referent Social influence as people tend to conform to the norms of the group they belong.

Nevertheless, Asch’s (1956) experiment received many criticisms. (McLeod, S. A. 2008) Cites the lack of informed consent and deception felt by individuals (as the real purpose of the research was not clear), and the fact that the other subjects were not actual participants. Therefore, (Cardwell, M., Flanagan, C. 2008, p.150) Cites this led into many potential questions into the validity of the experiment as findings could potentially only explain conformity in certain circumstances. (McLeod, S. A. 2008) Cites the lack of population validity concern and that results could not be generalised, due to the lack of female gender participants and the lack of a variety of age groups. (McLeod, S. A. 2008) Cites as tests were conducted under laboratory conditions and not into real-life situations, they could not be used to determine the conformity levels from the broader world population. (Cardwell, M., Flanagan, C. 2008, p.151) Cites the possibility of these findings to be unique to one culture. (McLeod, S. A. 2008) Cites critics suggested the levels of conformity conducted in the 1950s, with participants being all American males, bearing the same age group, reflected only the American culture. (McLeod, S. A. 2008) Cites that Back et al. (1963) criticised the ethical issues involving the experiments, suggesting participants were highly emotional and not protected by the psychological stress that could potentially happen if possibly disagreeing with the majority.

(Hill, G. 2009) Cites Perrin and Spencer (1980) tried to replicate Asch’s experiment in England in the late 1970s using science and engineering students. (Cardwell, M., Flanagan, C. 2008, p.151) Cites findings showed their initial investigation obtained only one conforming response out of 396 trials. (Cardwell, M., Flanagan, C. 2008, p.151) Cites Perrin and Spencer (1980) argued that a cultural change took place for the levels of conformity and obedience. (Cardwell, M. and Flanagan, C. 2008, p.151) Cites Smith and Bond (1998) conducted cultural-specific conformity classifying some countries as individualist and others as collectives. (Cardwell, M., Flanagan, C. 2008, p.151) Cites findings reflected that collectivist countries had potentially higher levels of conformity than individualist countries.

(Cardwell, M., Flanagan, C. 2008, p.152) Cites Moscovici et al. (1969) aimed to investigate if social influence could occur not only by compliance with the view of the majority but also by a change to previously held opinions or internalisation. (Cardwell, M. Flanagan, C. 2008, p.152) Cites Moscovici et al. (1969) proposed that the minority must be consistent because only through consistency it could potentially create a conflict for the rest of the group; leading individuals to possibly changing their views. (Hill, G. 2009, p.54) Cites Minority groups can influence majority groups in a society to create a social change; (Hill, G. 2009, p.54) Cites as demonstrated throughout history change in religion, women’s and black rights. (McLeod, S. A. 2007a) Cites this change is described through the Suffragette Movement which successfully achieved the right’s for women to vote. (Hill, G. 2009, p.54) Cites Maass and Clark (1983) as publicly expressing views on gay rights following the majority, although privately expressing views shifted towards the minority. (Hill, G. 2009, p.54) Cites minorities can cause private opinions to change before it changes it publicly and minorities are essential to motivate a change on individual’s views to lead into innovation into society. (Hill, G. 2009, p54) Cites the conformity into majority would stagnate the progress of society. (Cardwell, M., Flanagan, C. 2008, p.152) Cites that Wood et al. (1994) confirmed that where minorities were exceptionally consistent in their positions, they were particularly influential; and that majority group members tend to avoid being involved with a different minority group because individuals don’t like to be compared deviant themselves.

Similarly to Asch’s experiment, Moscovici’s (1969) experiment also deceived participants. (Cardwell, M., Flanagan, C. 2008, p.152) Cites participants were told the real purpose of the experiment at the end and the level of deception suffered by participants were harmless and did not involve undue stress, therefore judged ethically acceptable. On the other hand, (Cardwell, M. Flanagan, C. 2008, p.153) Cites Mackie (1987) challenged Moscovici’s explanation, arguing the majority are who promotes a more significant message and individuals generally believe they share similar views; leading the individuals to carefully process the majority’s signal to understand why there is a difference in their opinion. (Cardwell, M., Flanagan, C. 2008, p.153) Cites Mackie argues that the opposite happens for minorities as people are more unlikely to waste time trying to understand why a minority’s view is different to theirs. (Cardwell, M., Flanagan, C. 2008, p.153) Cites the effect of minority influence in the real-life situation is also questioned by Mackie (2006), through her ‘unchanging minds hypothesis’ suggesting although many discussions are frequently observed in democratic politics, change (what Moscovici call conversion) rarely occurs. (McLeod, S. A. 2007a) Cites a criticism due to the fact Moscovici’s experiment only used females’ students, being unable to generalise results. (McLeod, S. A. 2007a) Cites the fact that only four people were used on this experiment, not justified to be classified as a majority. (McLeod, S. 2007a) cites Edward Sampson (1991) challenged the laboratories experiments as they are rarely ‘real groups’, referring to findings as being artificial tasks, suggesting they are different from minority groups in society; who seek to change the majority views and opinions.

(Cardwell, M. Flanagan, C. 2008, p.156) Cites Milgram’s obedience study was published six months after the execution of Adolph Eichmann for the murders of European Jews during the Holocaust. (McLeod, S. A. 2017) Cites Adolph Eichmann claimed he was ‘only obeying orders’. (McLeod, S. A. 2017) Cites Milgram (1963) aimed to investigate the reaction of ordinary people in obeying an instruction, even if the process involves harming another individual and how easily individuals could be led into committing similar atrocities. (Hill, G. 2008, p.50) Cites Milgram (1974) asked psychiatrists, college students and colleagues to predict these results. (Cardwell, M. Flanagan, C. 2008, p.156) Cites findings were contrary to their expectations; reflecting ordinary people are astonishingly obedient and, in some cases, people went to extremes by simply following an order. (Cardwell, M. Flanagan, C. 2008, p.157) Cites in total, Milgram (1974) conducted 18 variations for the testing, manipulating the situation and observing the effects into the participant’s levels of obedience. (McLeod, S. A. 2017) Cites Milgram’s (1974) concluded the existence of two states of behaviour demonstrated by individuals. The autonomous state which reflects individuals accepting the responsibilities of their actions, and the agentic state which reflects an individual’s decision to allow someone to direct their actions, passing the responsibility to the authority giving the orders. (McLeod, S. A. 2017) Cites variations played a considerable part in the levels of obedience; the use of lab coats saw obedience levels decrease compared to tests that were conducted by an ordinary person; the change of location influenced results, experiments performed in offices saw levels decrease compared to tests conducted at the Yale University; two teacher condition, participants allowed to use an assistant increased obedience levels as it was less personal; touch proximity saw the levels decreasing as individuals felt no longer buffered; social support conditions reduced the obedience level as individuals had an ally; Absent Experimenter Condition saw obedience levels decreasing as individuals are more likely to disobey when an authority figure is not around.

Similarly, Milgram’s (1974) experiment used deception. (Cardwell, M. Flanagan, C. 2008, p.158) Cites Milgram (1974) deceived the participants as the real purpose of the study was not explained. However, Milgram (1954) justifies that deception gave real meaning to the process. Despite the issue, many participants felt they learned something personal through participating. (Cardwell, M. Flanagan, C. 2008, p.158) Cites Milgram’s (1974) study’s participants were not given the informed consent, many felt they had no right to leave; and the prob’s used from the experimenter persuade individuals in believing they had no choice – ‘’The experiment requires that you continue, you have no choice, please continue”. (Cardwell, M. Flanagan, C. 2008, p.159) Cites Baumrind (1964) attacked Milgram’s study claiming participants were under great emotional strain. (McLeod, S. A. 2017) Cites likewise, participants were exposed to high levels of stress potentially causing psychological harm, as examples seen of trembling and sweating until uncontrollable seizures. (McLeod, S. A. 2017) Cites the high levels of stress were felt during Milgram’s (1974) experiments. Milgram (1974) disclosed with participants after the experiment the real purpose and followed up participants a year later and found no signs for psychological harm suffered by the individuals. (McLeod, S. A. 2017) Cites the study not be valid as it was conducted under laboratory conditions. (McLeod, S. A. 2017) Cites Orne & Holland (1968) argued Milgram’s study lacked ‘experimental realism’, participants might not have believed into the experiment set-up. (McLeod, S. A. 2017) Cites Milgram’s study was biased as the participants were males and chosen carefully through an advertisement they responded to, not representing the broader American population.

However, (Cardwell, M. Flanagan, C. 2008, p.160) Cites Milgram’s explanation is relevant and does not only explains the acts during the World War II, but it also explains more contemporary atrocities such as the abuse of Iraqi prisoners. (Hill, G. 2008, p.52) Cites Zimbardo’s (1973) prison experiment, which aimed to demonstrate if the effects of such atrocities were possible by situational rather than dispositional. Therefore, (Cardwell, M. Flanagan, C. 2008, p. 147) Cites Zimbardo (1973) explanation is the same as Milgram’s (1974), as ordinary people could potentially be turned into tyrannical individuals by the power of the situation to influence and shape their behaviour. (McLeod, S. A. 2018) Cites Zimbardo’s (1973) findings concludes the situational behaviour had majorly affected participants.

Despite the findings in these research’s reflecting the factors, situations and the pressure that may lead individuals to conform or to obey, the ethical issues had a more controversial effect than the actual findings explored by the experimenters. (Cardwell, M. Flanagan, C. 2008, p. 147) Cites research in social influence is important to help understand the complex social and psychological forces behind horrific incidents. (Hill, G. 2008, p.26) Cites by using the understanding gained to predict and control the behaviour. However, findings were achieved by going against the ethical guidelines in human research. Humans have the rights of protection and privacy and not only experience pain and anxiety, and individuals could be potentially affected mentally by suffering embarrassment or loss of self-esteem. (Hill, G. 2008, p.26) Cites these rights are informed consent, not be misled, debriefing, ability to withdraw, confidentiality, protection, observational research; which led many researchers going against the findings obtained by the conformity and obedience studies.

In conclusion, these studies demonstrated the reasons why individuals conform or obey, highlighting the effect caused by circumstances or by the level of exposure they were being submitted to. Findings successfully justified that some individuals are more likely to conform depending on their emotional state whereas other individuals are unlikely to conform depending on their abilities to show an independent behaviour. As results were achieved by questionable ethics approaches and by the inability of protecting individuals, it was clear that going forward any research methods needed improvements to widen the variety of participants and the validity of the tests. The importance of Minority influence within society has been proven through history, leading to many changes and the progress of humanity. Understanding human behaviour in conformity and obedience could enable us to reduce the social influence effects; (Cardwell, M. Flanagan, C. 2008, p. 147) Cites evil acts could be better prevented in the future just by understanding situational forces that cause people to act this way.


Hill, G. (2009) Oxford Revision Guides AS & A level Psychology through Diagrams, Oxford: Oxford University Press

Cardwell, M., Flanagan, C. (2008) Psychology AS The complete Companion, 2nd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press

McLeod, S. A. (2016). What is conformity? Retrieved from: (Accessed on 4 October 2018)

McLeod, S. A. (2008). Asch experiment. Retrieved from: (Accessed on 4 October 2018)

McLeod, S. A. (2007a). Moscovici and minority influence. Retrieved from: (Accessed on 11 October 2018)

McLeod, S. A. (2017). The Milgram experiments. Retrieved from: (Accessed on 11 October 2018)

McLeod, S. A. (2007b). Obedience to authority. Retrieved from: (Accessed on 16 October 2018)

McLeod, S. A. (2018). Zimbardo – Stanford prison experiment. Retrieved from (Accessed on 16 October 2018)

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Crash course (2014) Social Influence: Crash Course Psychology (video). Available at: (Accessed on 4 October 2018)

Khan academy medicine (2015) Conformity and obedience Behaviour (video). Available at: (Accessed on 4 October 2018)

Spencer McFSpencer McFarling (2016) Zimbardo Stanford Prison Experiment 1 1 (video). Available at: (Accessed on 18 October 2018)


Implications of Stanley Milgram’s 1963 Study on Obedience on the Clinical Environment

Describe the key points and the potential implication of Stanley Milgram’s 1963 study on obedience for patients’ behaviours within a clinical environment and radiographers’ professional conduct in the context of a hierarchical working environment.

Milgram’s question which initiated the thought for this experiment started by the dispositional attribution of the Germans. He questioned how the German Nazi soldiers could permit the termination of the Jews and the harsh treatment (, 2019).  Milgram could not comprehend how the Nazi soldiers could act inhumanly without any conscience. The biggest question for Milgram was under what conditions would a person obey authority who commanded actions that went against their conscience (, 2019). This essay will explore Milgram’s study and his variations; relating to clinical environment and hierarchical working order. The variations which will be researched are the telephone orders, uniform variation , physical contact variation and run down office block.

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The aim of Stanley Milgram’s, Behavioural Study of Obedience was to investigate the level shown by members when told by authority to administer electric shocks to another person. The investigation examined the nature of human behaviours and its relationship to  hierarchical working order and conventions. The experiment helped investigate the relationships between group behaviour and blind obedience to authority. Obedience can be defined as compliance with an order, request, or law or submission to another’s authority (Lexico Dictionaries, English, 2019). The experiment was carried out as a controlled observation in a laboratory. It took place at Yale university; a prestigious place of education. The participants in the experiment were 40 males aged between 20-50 year old and a range of occupations and educational backgrounds. This increased Milgram’s generalisability with a varied range of occupations taking part. However, a downfall from this study is that there is a low generalisability in terms location as it was ethnocentric. Another disadvantage was, low population validity of this study was androcentric as the participants were only males (Yogi, 2019). Milgram advertised the experiment in a newspaper and asked for American male volunteers. Subjects were told that the was about the effects of punishment and memory (Medium, 2019). The participants were paid $4.50 as a convenience and was theirs’s to keep no matter the outcome. The type of sampling used were self-selecting and volunteer sampling.

During the procedure the participant was introduced to a strict looking experimenter; the authority figure wearing a white lab coat. One of the participates was a ‘teacher’ and one was the learner. They drew rigged lots to determine roles so that the naïve participant will always be the teacher and the confederate was always the learner. The learner was given shocks when they gave the wrong answers to questions the teacher asked. However, there were no actual shocks given to the learner. The only shock through the whole set-up procedure was a slight shock given to the teacher to show the authenticity of the experiment. The learner and the teacher were in separate rooms. The shocks increased every 15 volts up to 450 volts. Throughout, the authority figure gave prompts such as; “please continue”, “the experiment requires that you continue”, “it is absolutely essential that you continue” (Stanley, 2019). The results of this study were that 100% of participants obeyed the experimenter and delivered shocks up to 350 volts and 65% of participants delivered shocks up to maximum which was 450 volts. Additionally, 26 out 40 participants continued to the maximum voltage. (Stanley Milgram, 2019)

Uniform was one of the variation’s in Milgram’s study. Researcher left the room and was replaced by another person. This person was another confederate and without an official uniform and instead, was in ordinary clothes. During the experiment the confederate was suggesting to increase the voltage every time the learner made a mistake. The percentage of participants who administered the full 450 volts when being instructed by an ordinary man, dropped from 65% to 20% (Sage Journals, 2019). This percentage decrease demonstrated the significant influence of the uniform and the legitimacy is has. Individuals who are in positions of authority have a specific clothing that is symbolic of their authority (Khan, 2019). It indicates who is entitled to expect at their obedience.  was another study which showed that the power of uniform makes people obey orders. This can be related to clinical environment as there are hospital staff and different healthcare professions who are entitled to wear uniform (Timmons and East, 2019). For example, doctors, nurses and radiographers can be projected as people who have power over patients to an extent as it signals their biomedical authority as it signifies a profession’s identity. In terms of radiography hierarchy in a workplace, it is a code of conduct for radiographers wear appropriate uniform to demonstrate trustworthiness and integrity. (, 2019)

The second variation which will be explored is the absence of authority. During this absent experiment condition, the researcher gives the participant who was administering the.  The researcher then leaves the teacher in the room. Due the fact the teacher and learner were in separate rooms, this lead to a significant decrease in obedience. The level of obedience decreased to 20.5% (Mcleod, 2019). Different levels of obedience can be devised by patients when they are within a hospital environment compared to when they are not e.g. at home. Patients tend to listen to healthcare professions when within the clinical environment as they know they will have members of staff monitoring their treatment or actions taken are essentially benefiting the patient. An example would be that a nurse or physiotherapist may encourage a patient to take their pills on time or do certain exercises and patients would comply as they know how important it is for them but most importantly, they do not want to ruin the relationship they have with the healthcare professions (, 2015). Patients tend to think that if they are obedient they will be treated well rather than someone who is not obedient. REFEENCE. This is the same where the subject in Milgram’s study continued to administer the volts because the authority told him to continue was afraid of what could happen with him if he stopped. REF Secondly, since the subject was being paid to do that, even though he did not find it enjoying or knowing he was hurting someone, he was going to earn money. Relating to the patient and healthcare profession

 This can be linked to Milgram’s study because when patients are away from a clinical institution, some tend to not comply with the treatments instructed when they go home.

Getting paid – ruin relationship

Telephone orders was another variation in Milgram’s study. The researcher was giving orders to the participant administering the shocks over the phone. This means they weren’t in the same room as them and this lead to decreased obedience.   It is easier to resist the orders from an authority figure if they are not close by. When the experimenter instructed and prompted the teacher by telephone from another room, obedience fell to 20.5%. Hofling et al.’s (1966) Study of Obedience (, 2019), was an hospital study to see if nurses would obey a doctor even if it meant breaching hospital regulations and risking the life of patients. Nurses received a phone call from a unidentified doctor asking them to administer a drug to a patient. The dose of drug the nurses were asked to give were significantly high and would have been an overdose. The nurses then carried out to do so knowingly break hospital rules in a situation where a doctor tells them to, even if it could endanger a patient’s life. Although this study contradicts Milgram’s findings since it shows nurses did comply when the order was given over the telephone, it also supports Milgram’s study in how people obey authority figures since doctors are more senior than nurses. Another variable in a clinical environment is that radiographers have an authority over doctors and a responsibility for the patient by making sure any type of imaging is justified under IRMER protocol (, 2019). This is especially shown in theatre where the radiographers are responsible for everyone to wear lead and for the protective shielding to be up.  Doctors may request x-rays which do answer clinical questions and instead increase radiation for patient that is unneeded.

Run down office was another variation in this experiment. The study did not happen in a prestigious university like Yale in the original experiment. This decreased obedience to 19 (45.5%) (Psychology Wizard, 2019). Patients more likely to follow health professionals orders when in hospital as they are authority. Hospitals have strict protocols in place and regulations that must be followed by patients. Therefore they are likely to do what nurses, doctors and radiographers as they are seen as high authority figures and health professionals in the patient’s perspective. This is a vital part of their patient pathways and care. Another variable would be a setting of a room or bed in which the patient will have to spend time in during their treatment. A clean and tidy environment provides the right setting for good patient care. Patients would expect anything they come into contact with to be clean, especially with the bed they will be spending their time in (Cleantex, 2019). It’s also critical to have clean linens and towels to help stop the spread of diseases and infections (AM, 2019).

In conclusion, Milgram’s study on obedience reveals the extent to which society’s behaviour is influenced by other people. Due to the situation the teacher obeyed the instructions which were given to them even though they did not want to administer shocks. This shows that people are likely to obey people who have a position of authority even if it may go against their personal belief. However since there are set protocols and guidelines set in place in a clinical environment it is an advantage. This ensures employers understand what is expected of them and what will happen if they violate the rules.


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Mcleod, S. (2019). Milgram Experiment | Simply Psychology. [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 Aug. 2019].

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SAGE Journals. (2019). Milgram’s shock experiments and the Nazi perpetrators: A contrarian perspective on the role of obedience pressures during the Holocaust – Allan Fenigstein, 2015. [online] Available at: [Accessed 6 Aug. 2019]. (2019). 4. Personal & Professional Standards | Society of Radiographers. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Aug. 2019].

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Timmons, S. and East, L. (2019). Uniforms, status and professional boundaries in hospital. [online] Wiley Online Library. Available at: Cited by: 15 [Accessed 7 Aug. 2019].

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Reflection on the Study of Obedience

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Milgram and Zimbardo’s Experiments on Obedience and Compliance

The Milgram Obedience experiment, which is also known as the Obedience to Authority Study, is a very well known scientific experiment in social psychology. The concept of the experiment was first discussed in 1963 in the Behavioral Study of Obedience in the Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology by Yale university psychologist Stanley Milgram and later in his 1974 publication Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View. The purpose of this experiment is to test the power of human nature to resist the authority of an authority who gives an order against their conscience. This experiment was regarded as a typical one about the obedience experiment, and it had strong repercussions in the social psychology circle.

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The following is some basic processes of the experiment:Milgram first advertised in the newspaper for participants and paid them $4.50 for each trial. Forty people, ranging in age from 25 to 50, were recruited to take part in the experiment. They were told they would take part in an experiment to study the effects of punishment on students’ learning. In the experiment, two people were paired, one as a student and one as a teacher. Who shall be the student and who shall be the teacher shall be determined by lot. The teacher’s task is to read the paired related words. The students must remember the words. Then the student need to choose the correct answer from four opinions after teacher presents a word. If the choice is wrong, the teacher pushes the button and gives the students an electric shock as punishment.
Due to prior arrangement, each group actually had only one participant, and the other was an assistant of the experiment. As a result, the participants were always teachers and the assistants were always students. At the beginning of the experiment, an assistant and a participant were placed in two rooms separated by a wall. Electrodes were attached to the students’ arms so that they could be given an electric shock if they made a bad choice. Moreover, the experimenter strapped the “student” to a chair, explaining to the “teacher” that it was to prevent him from escaping. “Teacher” and “student” cannot see each other directly, they use the telecommunication transmission way to keep in touch. There were buttons on a total of 30, imposing electric penalties are marked on the each button it controlled by the voltage, starting from 15 volts, increased to 450 volts in turn. In fact, no shock was actually implemented, in the next room, the experimenter turned on a tape recorder, which played a pre recorded scream paired with the action of a generator. However, to make the participants convinced, they first received a 45-volt electric shock as an experience. Although the experimenter said the shock was mild, it was too much for the participants to bear.
During the experiment, the “student” made many mistakes intentionally. After the “teacher” pointed out his mistakes, he gave electric shock immediately. The “student” groaned repeatedly. As the voltage rises, the “student” shouts and scolds, then begs, kicks and hits the wall, and finally stops yelling, seemingly fainting. At this point, many of the participants expressed a desire to pause the experiment to check on the students. Many participants paused at 135 volts and questioned the purpose of the experiment. Some went on to take the test after receiving assurances that they were not liable. Some laughed nervously as they heard the students scream. When a participant indicated that he wanted to stop the experiment, the experimenter responded in the following order:

Please continue.
This experiment needs you to continue. Please continue.
It is necessary that you go on.
You have no choice, you must go on.

If, after four times of prompting, the participants still wanted to stop, the experiment stopped. Otherwise, the experiment will continue until the punishment voltage applied by the participants increases to the maximum 450 volts and continues for three times.
In this case, 26 participants (65% of the total) obeyed the experimenter’s order and persisted until the end of the experiment, but showed varying degrees of nervousness and anxiety. Fourteen others (35% of the total) rebelled and refused to carry out the order, saying it was cruel and immoral. After the experiment, Milgram told the truth to all the participants in order to eliminate their anxiety.
Surprisingly, before the experiment, Milgram had asked his fellow psychologists to predict the outcome of the experiment, and they all agreed that only a few people — 1 in 10 or even 1 percent — would be willing to continue punishing until the maximum volt. As a result, in Milgram’s first experiment, 65 percent of the participants (more than 27 out of 40) reached the maximum 450 volts of punishment — even though they all showed discomfort. Everyone paused and questioned the experiment when the volts reached a certain level, and some even said they wanted to give their money back. None of the participants persisted in stopping before reaching 300 volts. Milgram himself and a number of psychologists around the world have since done similar or different experiments, but with similar results. Dr Thomas Blass of the university of Maryland, Baltimore county, repeated the experiment many times and came up with the result: Regardless of the time and place of the experiment, a certain percentage of participants — 61 percent to 66 percent — were willing to apply a lethal voltage to each experiment.
As Philip Zimbardo recalled, due to little awareness about the experiment, participants who didn’t reach the highest volts didn’t insist that the experiment itself should end, didn’t visit the “student” in the next room, and didn’t ask the experimenter for permission to leave.
Milgram stated in his article The Perils of Obedience (1974) that the legal and philosophical views of obedience are very significant, but they say little about the actions people take when confronted with practical situations. He designed this experiment at Yale university to test an ordinary citizen’s willingness to inflict much or little pain on another human being just because of the orders given by a scientist assisting the experiment. When the authority that led the experiment ordered the participant to harm another person, even more so than the screams of pain the participant had heard, the authority continued to order the participant most of the time, even though the participant was so morally disturbed. Experiments have shown how willing adults are to submit to almost any measure of power, and we must study and explain this phenomenon as soon as possible.
The experiment itself has raised ethical questions about the science of the experiment, which puts extreme emotional pressure on participants. Although the experiment led to valuable discoveries in human psychology, many scientists today would consider such experiments unethical. A later survey found that 84% of the participants at the time said they felt “happy” or “very happy” to have taken part in the experiment, that 15% of the participants chose to be neutral (92% of the participants did the post-survey), and many of them later thanked Milgram. And Milgram kept getting calls from former participants who wanted to help him with his experiments again, or even to join his research team. However, the experience of the experiment did not change every participant for life. Many participants were not told the details based on modern experimental standards, and exit interviews showed that many participants still did not seem to understand what was going on. The main criticism of experiments is not the ethical controversy of their methods, but the significance they represent. A participant from Yale university in 1961 wrote in the magazine of the Jewish Currents: when he wanted to stop in the middle of as a “teacher”, is a suspect to “the whole experiment may be just designed, in order to test an ordinary americans will follow orders against conscience – like Germany during the Nazi period” and this is one of the purpose of the experiment. Milgram, in his book The Perils of Obedience (1974), said, “the question we face is how the conditions we create in the laboratory to bring people to power are related to the Nazi era that we deplored.”
An ordinary person, just to get his work done, without any personal malice or enmity, can actually be a tool for a horrific process of destruction. Moreover, when their work makes the destruction process obvious, when the tasks they are asked to perform do not conform to their own moral values, most people are unable to resist the orders of leaders.
On the basis of the first experiment, Milgram further discusses what factors are involved in the generation of obedience behavior. He explored the manipulation of experimental conditions from the subjective and objective dimensions of obedience. The objective conditions of Milgram’s operation include many.
Firstly, it is the distance between “teacher” and “student”: The distance between teachers and students is divided into four grades, with 40 participants participating in each grade. After analysing the data, the result shows that the closer the “student” is to “teacher”, the more the participant refuses to obey, and the farther the distance is, the easier the participant is to obey. Secondly, it is the relationship between the experimenter and the participant. The relationship was divided into three situations: the experimenter and the participant were face to face together; the experimenter left after explaining the task and kept in touch with the participant by telephone; the experimenter was not present, and all instructions were played by a tape recorder. The results showed that in the first case, the participants obeyed three times more than in the other cases. Thirdly, it is the status of the experimenter. The results showed that the higher the status of the experimenters, the higher the number of the “students” who were tested with the strongest electric shock.
In addition, there are many factors affecting obedience, which can be summarised into three aspects:

the sender of the order. His authority, whether he supervises the execution of orders, affects obedience.
the executor of a command. His moral level, personality characteristics and cultural background will also affect his obedience to orders.
situational factors. For example, whether someone supports his refusal behavior, what is the example behavior of those around him, how is the reward structure set, how is the feedback of his refusal or execution of orders, etc., will also affect the individual’s obedience behavior.

In conclusion, just like some social psychologists believe that there are two main reasons why individuals obey behaviors. The first is legal power. We usually think that in certain situations, society has given certain social roles more power, and it is our duty to obey them. For example, students should obey teachers, patients should obey doctors, etc. In the laboratory, participants should obey the experimenter, especially the unfamiliar situation strengthens the participants’ readiness to obey the orders of the experimenter. The second is the transfer of responsibility. In general, we have our own sense of responsibility for our own behavior, but if we think that the responsibility for a certain behavior is not our own, especially when a commander takes the initiative to take responsibility, we will think that the leader of the behavior is not our own, but the commander. Therefore, we don’t have to be responsible for this behavior, so there’s a transfer of responsibility, and people don’t think about the consequences of their behavior.