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Behavioral Study of Obedience


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Behavioral Study of Obedience


The theme in this article focuses onobedience, whereby it portrays obedience as a determinant of behavior. Obedience is that psychological mechanism that makes an individual to act in a particular way in line with political purpose. It also binds people with the systems of authority, however, facts puts obedience as an ingrained behavior.

The purpose of the study

The purpose of this article is to study the relationship between punishment and learning whereby it focuses on finding out the effect that different people have on each other as teacher and leaner. More specifically what effect punishment will have on this situation? In order to achieve that objective, researcher has to vary the dependent variable to determine how much punishment is essential for learning. Furthermore, this article is also destined to determine the difference punishment makes when it is being administered by different individuals of various ages. To achieve all that, an experiment was conducted on Yale University where one naïve subject and one victim conducted an experiment that was ultimately designed to pursue a worthy purpose of advancement of knowledge about learning and memory (Milgram, 1963).

How the study was conducted

The study was conducted by taking into account one naïve subject and one victim. To determine who would be the subject, an election was conducted to bring out who’s the teacher and who is the learner of the experiment. However, the outcome of drawing was predetermined such that the naïve subject will always be the teacher and the accomplice the learner. Under this experiment the teacher was a 31-year-old biology teacher while as the victim was a 41-year-old accountant (Milgram, 1963).

After drawing the teacher and the learner were put into two adjacent rooms. The learner was strapped into an electric chair to avoid excessive movement when he is being shocked thereby preventing him from escaping from the situation (Milgram, 1963).

A shock generator was used in this experiment which has switches. The switches were used adjust the amount of shock administered to the learner depending on his response whether wrong or right. However, this study was carried out on Yale Universitywhereby forty males’ subjects of different ages drawn from New Haven and surrounding communities were used. They were gotten via advertisement and direct mail (Milgram, 1963).

Results of the study

The experiment yielded two findings. First it was that of high degrees of obedience in this situation. The subjects had a long tradition since childhood that it’s immoral to hurt someone. However under this situation they violated that principle of showing shreds of tenderness towards fellow human being. This was evidently shown when 26 subjects out of 40 abandoned that principle by following instructions of an authority. This was not the right direction to follow, since disobeying was not meant to bring any material loss or even being punished. The outcome of compliance with the experiment commands in effect leads to two surprising results. First, the outcome was contrary to the predictions that were carried out earlier. This difference in prediction to the actual result could possibly results from imperfect information. This imperfect information is in terms of remoteness of respondents from the real situation and also failure to provide concrete and vivid information of the experiment being carried. Similarly, there was disparity of one way mirrors from the actual results. The cause of such variation was that, the person undertaking the one way mirrors had full acquaintance of the whole situation (Milgram, 1963).The second result of the study was the mixed reactions tension and emotional strain. Despite subjects showing various emotional feelings towards the task they carried on to the end.

Conclusions of the study

The experiment was designed to attain a better purpose. The purpose was to advance knowledge of learning and memory. The study concluded that participants displayed diverse degrees of obedience. Some participants were good and others average and most likely they were not evil individuals. They delivered to the instructor’s mandate under coercion only.

The study concluded that, obedience is an instrumental element in a situation whereby the subjects understands the meaning of something in a particular way that seems significant and meaningful. However, subjects may fail to see and understand the full worthy of the situation but at the back of his mind he assumes that the experimenter is better off. This in effect shows that obedience does not occur as an end in itself (Milgram, 1963).

Milgram concluded that common citizens are at a good place to follow orders that are given by a person in the position of power. Obedience to the authority is a virtue in human being because that is the way people are brought up. From the study, it is clear that people are likely to follow orders to an extent of killing an innocent human being. They administered shock to a human beings in the line of following orders and eliminate any signs of defiance (Milgram, 1963).

The study was totally unbiased since it was carried out in a closed setting. The closeness of the setting ensures that there is vagueness in expectations. The subject had no chance of discussing the ambiguity of the experiment with others hence their results was the true result of the study. Both naive subject and the accomplice subject incur a degree of obligation towards the experimenter. Both of them voluntarily entered into an agreement with the experimenter. More specifically, they had been paid to come to the laboratory. In effect, they must honor experimenter demands (Milgram, 1963).


Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral Study of Obedience. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67, 371-378.




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