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milgram obedience to authority experiment, replicated (with tweaks)

So, today in class we watched part of the BBC replication of the Milgram obedience to authority experiment (the documentary aired May 2009).  Boy, this one is a doozy.  The replication even tweaked Milgram’s original experiment in ways which, one would think, lessen the subjects willingness to obey authority. For example, the subjects met and interacted with the confederate they were about to shock; subjects thought they were chosen randomly to be the teacher (the person administering the shocks, rather than receiving them); the subjects watched the confederate being tied to the chair; the subjects were also given a 45 volt test shock, etc. *(A commenter rightly calls me out on these differences, here’s the wiki on the experiment with a description of the original along with subsequent variations.)

But, alas, nine out of twelve subjects were nonetheless willing to obey the authority figure and to administer the full 450 volts, enough to kill a person.

A powerful documentary.  (Some notes: Watch how readily the young student carries out the orders.  Are professors really this powerful?  The clear, inner turmoil of some of the subjects, who nonetheless obey, is hard to watch.  The ‘diffusion of responsibility’ aspects of this are fascinating.  And, then some of the debriefing in clip 3 of course is interesting.)

Here are the links: BBC Milgram Experiment 1, BBC Milgram Experiment 2, BBC Milgram Experiment 3.

Michael Sauder had a nice post last year about using the Milgram experiment (specifically the associated film) in one of his classes.

Written by teppo

October 7, 2009 at 9:49 pm

Posted in psychology, the man

11 Responses

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  1. See also this replication of the Milgram experiment at Santa Clara University in 2007:
    http://abcnews.go.com/Primetime/story?id=2765416

    Btw, I don’t know about the BBC replication, but the original Milgram study’s max shock level was 450 volts, not watts.

    Liked by 1 person

    Thorstein Veblen

    October 7, 2009 at 10:05 pm

  2. Thanks for the link. Right, I meant volts (not watts — changed in the post).

    Like

    tf

    October 7, 2009 at 10:07 pm

  3. I misread one sentence to read that you had a discussion on class in Britain, not a class discussion. Has anyone tried varying class/race/gender in these studies? I would imagine lawyers would get shocked more often.

    Looks like they also didn’t vary the credibility of the subject administrator. I imagine that people assume anyone in a lab coat to be competent.

    I guess more than anything, I’m surprised the subjects hadn’t heard of the study before.

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    Thorfinn

    October 7, 2009 at 10:20 pm

  4. Thorfinn: The wiki entry on the Milgram experiment has answers to your questions and links to relevant studies and variations: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milgram_experiment

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    tf

    October 7, 2009 at 10:25 pm

  5. […] BBC replicates the Milgram Experiment with tweaks. […]

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  6. “For example, the subjects met and interacted with the confederate they were about to shock; subjects thought they were chosen randomly to be the teacher (the person administering the shocks, rather than receiving them); the subjects watched the confederate being tied to the chair; the subjects were also given a 45 volt test shock, etc.”

    Each of these things was a part of Milgram’s original study. From what I can tell, they tried to follow Milgram’s original procedure as closely as possible, though the “experimenter’s” prompts to continue were slightly different.

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    John

    October 8, 2009 at 1:39 am

  7. Ok, you’re right, goes to show I haven’t carefully revisited the actual Milgram for a decade+. The wiki has the variations. Thanks for the correction!

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    tf

    October 8, 2009 at 2:15 am

  8. Just curious, but does the BBC have ethical guidelines and I wonder what they were in this case?

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    Aileen O'Carroll

    October 15, 2009 at 1:43 pm

  9. Aileen O'Carroll

    October 15, 2009 at 1:48 pm

  10. what was the indepent variables?

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    hope

    July 22, 2012 at 7:14 pm

  11. This website definitely has all the information I needed concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

    Like

    Aruba

    July 23, 2012 at 5:04 am


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