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A Brief Summary Of Milgram's Seminal Research On Obedience To Authority

1537 words - 6 pages

Social psychology, as a discipline, has given relatively little attention to the problem of evil in society, and those discussions in this field that do exist typically regard evil actions as only varieties of aggression without any characteristics that distinguish them from other forms of intentional mistreatment of others (Berkowitz, 1999). Because of the field's situationistic perspective emphasizing the individual's susceptibility to the power of the immediate situation, social psychologists generally view the fairly high levels of obedience to authority displayed in Milgram's classic experiment as the paradigmatic example of evil behavior (Berkowitz, 1999). Reading about the work of Ross and Nisbett, 1991 (as cited in Berkowitz, 1999, p. 247) stated that “social psychologists, by and large, do not think of evil actions as the product of evil personalities. Rather, they emphases the immediate situation's great influence on thoughts, feelings, and behavior, they tend to minimize the role of individual dispositions.”
Remembering back to the the time of the Holocaust, an event that went down as one of the biggest human mass genocides of all time. Blass (1991) questions the exact parallels between the actions of Milgram's subjects and those of the Nazis under Hitler during the Holocaust and to attempts at understanding its causes. According to Dörner and Güss (2011), “regarding Hitler as a human being means that Hitler is not completely strange and different, someone who cannot be understood. It means that we can find Hitler in ourselves, through such behavior tendencies: the misattribution of failure, the loss of touch with reality, the affirmative perception, the tendency to feel powerful through decisive actions” (p. 48). Therefore, regarding the quality of psychological processes, Hitler’s were not very different from those of the average person: Everything in his behavior can also be found in the behavior of “normal” people (Dörner and Güss, 2011). According to Zimbardo and Gerrig, 1999, p. 793 (as cited in Mastroianni, 2002, p. 159) explained “what made thousands of Nazis willing to follow Hitler’s orders and send millions of Jews to the gas chambers? Milgram’s research showed that the blind obedience of Nazis during World War II was the outcome of situational forces that could engulf anyone.”
The aims and objectives of this paper is to provide a brief summary of Milgram's seminal research on obedience to authority, and describing Milgram's methodology as well as his results and his interpretation of those results. Additionally, we will be discussing what current research has found regarding conforming to authority. One of the biggest questions we will be asking in this paper, will the moderately of individuals most tend to conform to authority? Lastly, we will be explaining and discussing what current research supports or refutes Milgram's findings and then provide an overall conclusion about the origins of conforming to...

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