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Psychological Theories on Milgram Experiment - Dictionary of Arguments

Haslam I 119
Milgram experiment/psychological theories: A. VsMilgram: For his critics (of whom there have been many; for recent discussion see Brannigan, Nicholson and Cherry, 2015)(1), Milgram had himself committed acts of inhumanity in the guise of studying inhumanity (>Experiment/Milgram). In an influential commentary that appeared in American Psychologist, Diana Baumrind (1964)(2) accused Milgram of failing to treat his participants with the respect they deserved and of undermining their self-esteem and dignity. Shortly after the research was first publicized in the New York Times of 26 October 1963, an editorial in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch described Milgram’s work as ‘open-eyed torture’ (cited in Blass, 2004(3): 121).
MilgramVsVs: Milgram (1964)(4) responded to such criticism by claiming that ‘no-one who took part in the obedience study suffered damage, and most subjects found the experience to be instructive and enriching’ (Blass, 2004(3): 124). He backed up his claims with evidence taken from post-experimental questionnaires. These showed that, of the 656 people who participated in the studies, 83.7% were ‘glad’ or ‘very glad’ to have participated, 15.1% were neutral, and 1.3% were ‘sorry’ or ‘very sorry’ to have taken part.
Reicher/Haslam: However, researchers have developed a number of strategies in order to surmount this considerable obstacle. One is to use alternative and less harmful behaviours in order to investigate obedience. Cf. >Obedience/Milgram.
These include giving negative feedback to job applicants in order to make them more nervous (Meeus and Raaijmakers, 1986(5), 1995(6)), crushing bugs (Martens et al., 2007(7)), performing an on-line analogue task which involves applying negative labels to increasingly positive groups (Haslam, Reicher and Birney, 2014(8)), or simply persisting at a long and tedious task (Navarick, 2009)(9).
Haslam I 120
B. A second strategy has been to revisit and re-analyse Milgram’s own studies for new insights. (…) Steven Gilbert (1981)(10) shows the importance of the gradual increase in shock intensity which deprives participants of a qualitative breakpoint that would allow them to justify breaking off and becoming disobedient. Dominic Packer (2008)(11), by contrast, highlights how the reactions of the learner can provide such a justification. This relates to the fact (noted above) that the point at which most people break off is 150 volts, where the learner first asks to be released from the study.
Eight relevant factors: (Haslam, Loughnan and Perry, 2014)(12):
1) the experimenter’s directiveness,
2) legitimacy
3) consistency;
4) group pressure to disobey;
5) the indirectness,
6) proximity,
7) intimacy of the relation between teacher and learner
8) distance between the teacher and the experimenter.
C. Other authors have studied historical examples of obedience and disobedience form a psychological perspective: A notable example of this is François Rochat and Andre Modigliani’s (1995)(13) analysis of resistance to the official oppression of minorities by the villagers of Le Chambon in Southern France during the Second World War (see also Rochat and Modigliani, 2000)(14). >Obedience/psychological theories.

1. Brannigan, A., Nicholson, I. and Cherry, F. (2015) ‘Unplugging the Milgram machine’,
Theory and Psychology (Special Issue), 25: 551—696.
2. Baumrind, D. (1964) ‘Some thoughts on ethics of research: After reading Milgram’s “Behavioral study of obedience”’, American Psychologist, 19:421—3.
3. Blass, T. (2004) The Man who Shocked the World: The Life and Legacy of Stanley Milgram. New York: Basic Books.
4. Milgram, S. (1964) 1lssues in the study of obedience: A reply to Baumrind’, American Psychologist, 19: 848—5 2.
5. Meeus, W.H.J. and Raaijmakers, Q.A. (1986) obedience: Carrying out
orders to use psychological-administrative violence &, European Journal of Social Psychology, 16:311—24.
6. Meeus, W.H.J. and Raaijmakers, Q.A. (1995) ‘Obedience in modem society: The Utrecht studies’, Journal of Social Issues, 5 1: 155—75.
7. Martens, A., Kosloff, S., Greenberg, J., Landau, M.J. and Schmader, T. (2007) ‘Killing begets killing: Evidence from a bug-killing paradigm that initial killing fuels subsequent killing’, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33: 1251—64.
8. Haslam, S.A., Reicher, S.D. and Birney, M. (2014) ‘Nothing by mere authority: Evidence that in an experimental analogue of the Milgram paradigm participants are motivated not by orders but by appeals to science’, Journal of Social Issues, 70:473—88.
9. Navarick, D.J. (2009) ‘Reviving the Milgram obedience paradigm in the era of informed consent The Psychological Record, 59: 155—70.
10. Gilbert, S.J. (1981) ‘Another look at the Milgram obedience studies: The role of a graduated series of shocks’, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 7: 690—5.
11. Packer, D.J. (2008) ‘Identifying systematic disobedience in Milgram’s obedience experiments: A meta-analytic review’, Perspectives on Psychological Science, 3: 301—4.
12. Haslam, N., Loughnan, S. and Perry, G. (2014) 4Meta-Milgram: An empirical synthesis of the obedience experiments’, PLoS ONE, 9(4): e93927.
13. Rochat, F. and Modigliani, A. (1995) 4The ordinary quality of resistance: From Milgram’s laboratory to the village of Le Chambon’, Journal of Social Issues, 51: 195—210.
14. Rochat, F. and Modigliani, A. (2000) ‘Captain Paul Grueninger: The Chief of Police who saved Jewish refugees by refusing to do his duty’, in T. Blass (ed.), Obedience to Authority: Current Perspectives on the Milgram Paradigm. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. pp.91—110.

Stephen Reicher and S. Alexander Haslam, „Obedience. Revisiting Milgram’s shock experiments”, in: Joanne R. Smith and S. Alexander Haslam (eds.) 2017. Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies. London: Sage Publications

Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Psychological Theories
Haslam I
S. Alexander Haslam
Joanne R. Smith
Social Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2017

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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2021-04-12
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