Skip navigation


Author: Rachel Gill – Psychology Undergraduate

Abstract

Stanley Milgram’s famously controversial experiments testing individual boundaries of obedience to authority by encouraging unknowing research participants to engage in emulated torture (subjects were convinced to believe they were administering electric shocks to individuals, who were actors in a separate room protesting in feigned pain.) prompts several questions about motivational factors that drive individuals to obey powers of authority despite harm to others. Jerry Burger, a psychologist who recently replicated the Milgram experiment achieved results similar to the original. This examination considers the implications of the experimental results and refers, specifically, to the article on the subject, featured in American Psychologist (2009), written by Dave Munger.

Obedience to Authority: Motivation Mystique & the Milgram Experiment

Summary of Research

Milgram’s original research shows that 60 percent of the research subjects administered the maximum 450 volts of (believed) electricity with 80 percent surpassing the 150-volt threshold that Milgram had predicted prior to administering the experiment. Burger’s 2006 replicated experiment found 70 percent exceeding the 150 volt standard. To address potential skewing of data and issue of controversy, Burger reinforced his study by screening out subjects who had previously completed 2 courses of psychology and presented potential bias and those with diagnosable mental disorders whose conditions might be exasperated by participation.

The Nature of Rebellious Action

In his article reviewing the subject, Dave Munger offers a summarized explanation of Milgram and Burger’s results with a brief, unfounded conclusion, “the nature of the rebellious action counts” . . . “only when rebels outnumber authority figures can disobedience readily spread.” While Munger’s estimation is certainly reasonable, he offers no quantifiable data that would warrant his perspective. Ultimately, the subjective nature of investigating and interpreting motivational factors that influence behavior presents a problem to researchers that compromise validity, reliability, and hinders psychology’s progressive efforts to find a place amongst the more established, respected sciences.

Regarding Uncharted Error Potential

Moreover, while Burger’s replicated research offers investigative enhancements that take into consideration error potentials previously unidentified, such improvements seem inconsequential where individual traits, vulnerability factors, gender/cultural/lifestyle and environmental influences are not representative  of the complex dynamics that comprise each person’s  unique process for accomplishing moral reasoning and the individual behavioral variations that arise across time and situational contexts. Additionally, Milgram and Burger’s experiment does not consider the importance of expectation effect in motivating obedient behavior. (Hans, Smith, Block 183-281)

Acquired Drives: Considering Behavior Motivation

E.C. Tolman’s concept of acquired drives (Figure 1) explains motive as an acquisition achieved through instrumental learning, suggesting that motivations for behavior transpires through a process uniquely resolved through a mechanism defined by individual differences and sensitivity to environmental stimuli. (Craighead, Nemeroff 5)

In conclusion, while Milgram and Burger’s research certainly offers a dramatic and intriguing window into the collaborative function of moral reasoning and obedient behavior, the study is incomplete, vulnerable to misinterpretation and lacks appropriate quantifiable controls necessary for balancing the many error risk potentials involved in conducting subjective psychological analysis and essential in meeting standards for scientific research.

References

Burger, J. M. (2009). Replicating Milgram: Would people still obey today? American Psychologist, 64(1), 1-11. doi: 10.1037/a0010932

Craighead, Edward W., Charles B. Nemeroff. (2004). The Concise Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology and Behavioral Science 3rd Edition. Wiley & Sons. Hoboken: New Jersey

Hann, N., Smith, B., & Block, J. (1968). Moral reasoning of young adults. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 10, 183–201.

Figure Captions

Figure 1.


Advertisements

Comment on this post

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

MAKE BPD STIGMA-FREE!

Helping those with Borderline Personality Disorder fight the stigma and enjoy their lives for who they are - highly empathetic, compassionate and creative people with beautiful minds.

interNational Association of Peer Supporters (iNAPS)

It's about all of us working together to re-humanize healthcare

A Journey Into A Unique Mind

Sharing my journey as a mum with Aspergers, Bipolar, Anxiety and PTSD

Dialectical Behavior Therapy Resources

Samantha Fenno, PhD, LCSW, Lakeview Center for Psychotherapy

Behavioral Research & Therapy Clinics

at the Center for Behavioral Technology

Bipolar For Life

Memoirs of a Wounded Healer

The Borderline Acceptance

The one stop site for learning to love yourself with BPD

Searching For A Quiet Mind

On a journey to recovery from multiple diagnoses. Ramblings of a bookworm, crochet fanatic, meditation enthusiast, panda lover and internet addict.

DBT Peer Connections

Building Hope, Community and Skillful Means

~~~ ~~~ ~ The DBT-CBT Workbook ~ ~~~ ~~~

The Blog of Melanie Gordon Sheets, Ph.D., the author of the "Out-of-Control" DBT-CBT Recovery Workbook

Turtle Talk

Indigenous Law and Policy Center Blog Michigan State University College of Law

A complicated person, with a complicated life

A complicated person, with a complicated life

Ron Mills de Pinyas Art

Ron Mills de Pinyas Art

johnritterdotcom

Just another WordPress.com site

Wonderwindy77's Weblog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

mcneae

Just another WordPress.com site

NAMI NW Walk

The official blog for the NAMI NW Walk.

%d bloggers like this: