Bradford 213 lecture 3 four famous social psychology experiments
Four Famous Social Psychology Experiments John Bradford, Ph.D.
Stanley Milgram and Obedience• One of the most famous experiments of the 20th century.• What explains the Holocaust? Are Germans just inherently more obedient than other people?• The Milgram experiment measured the willingness to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts that conflicted with their personal conscience.
Stanley Milgram and ObedienceExperiment:• Three roles: – an experimenter (man in white lab coat); – a volunteer (the ‘teacher’); – and the shockee (the ‘learner’). All are actors except the volunteer.• Responding to a newspaper ad, a volunteer was told he would be participating in an experiment testing the effects of negative reinforcement (punishment) on learning. The volunteer was told that a ‘teacher’ (giving electric shocks) and ‘learner’ (receiving electric shocks) were to be picked at random.
Stanley Milgram and ObedienceExperiment:• In reality, the experiment was to see how much electroshock the teacher would give as punishment, when told it was part of an experiment. Everyone but the ‘teacher’ was acting and knew the true purpose of the experiment. No electric shocks were actually administered, but the volunteer believed he was administering them.• The ‘learner’ would go into another room and a tape recording was played of scripted answers. For each wrong answer, the teacher was supposed to give a shock to the learner, with the voltage increasing in 15-volt increments for each wrong answer.
Stanley Milgram and ObedienceFindings:• BASELINE STUDY (most famous): 65% of volunteers ‘go all the way’ and are willing to shock the subject to death!• Milgram also studied 20-40 variants of this experiment with different results:
Stanley Milgram and ObedienceFindings:• Experiment #3: The Shockee is placed in the same room so that the volunteer can see him; obedience drops to 40%.• Experiment #4: The volunteer must physically restrain the shockee; obedience drops to 30%.• Experiment #14 : If experimenter is not a scientist in a white lab coat, then obedience drops to 20%.• Experiment #17: Volunteer and two other participants (both actors); if other actors refuse to continue the experiment, obedience drops to 10%
Stanley Milgram and ObedienceFindings:• Experiment #15: *If there are two other experimenters in white lab coats (both actors) who disagree about what to do, then obedience drops to ZERO!• As soon as participants are told that they “have no choice”, obedience drops to ZERO!• These results were confirmed in 2006.
Stanley Milgram and ObedienceQUESTION: What does all this mean? Why did so many people go along with the experiment, if they only did so long as they were NOT ordered to do so?
Stanley Milgram and Obedience• This study does NOT show that people ‘obey orders’!• They are participating because they believe they are promoting the common good, a noble cause: science.• They are shocking innocent strangers not because they believe they have to, but because they believe they ought to.
Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison ExperimentsExperiment:• 70 volunteers selected;• by flip of coin, half are chosen as guards, other half as prisoners• Participants make up their own rules; not pre-determined• Each participant was paid $15 a day
Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiments• Findings:• Experiment ended after 6 days!• Could no longer distinguish reality (the experiment) from the roles they adopted as prisoners and guards• “There were dramatic changes in virtually every aspect of their behavior, thinking and feeling…. We were horrified because we saw some boys (guards) treat others as if they were despicable animals, taking pleasure in cruelty, while other boys (prisoners) became servile, dehumanized robots….” (141)
Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiments• Findings:• About 1/3 of guards became ‘corrupted by the power of their roles’ (142)• “*T+he mere act of assigning labels to people and putting them into a situation where those labels acquire validity and meaning is sufficient to elicit pathological behavior” (Zimbardo, pg. 143)
‘On Being Sane in Insane Places’• Can we always distinguish ‘normal’ from ‘abnormal’ people? The ‘sane’ from the ‘insane’?• How objective are these labels? 1. Are ‘insane’ behaviors caused by innate characteristics of these individuals or are they elicited from external environments? 2. Do observers see the ‘same’ behavior differently in different Scene from One Flew circumstances? Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)
‘On Being Sane in Insane Places’• Rosenhan undertakes groundbreaking study: will sane people (‘pseudo-patients’) be recognized as sane by hospital staff in a psychiatric ward?• Experiment – 8 sane people admitted into 12 hospitals; 3 women, 5 men – Initially complained of ‘hearing voices’ of an ‘existential nature’: D. L. Rosenhan – Symptoms chosen because there were zero reports of ‘existential psychoses in the literature’ – After being admitted, pseudo-patients behaved normally – Length of stay ranges from 7 to 52 days, average of 19 days
‘On Being Sane in Insane Places’• Findings: The normal are not detectably sane! – Pseudo-patients were never detected • Other patients (but not doctors and staff) sometimes detected that they were not insane. – Each was discharged with a diagnosis D. L. Rosenhan of schizophrenia “in remission” – Normal behaviors were often interpreted as abnormal because of the diagnosis!
Labels and Perception • “Once a person is designated abnormal, all of his other behaviors and characteristics are colored by that label”Perception (280). Label 1. Observers perceive of normal behavior as crazy; (diagnosis) behavior our expectations thus reinforce our initial impressions 2. Patients can even begin to see themselves as ‘crazy’, and thus act crazy (self-fulfilling prophecy)
Asch’s Conformity Experiments• Question: Which of the lines on the second card (A, B, or C) is the same length as the line on the first card?• “That we have found the tendency to conformity in our society so strong that Solomon Asch reasonably intelligent and (1907 – 1996) well-meaning young people are willing to call White Black is a matter of concern. It raises questions about out ways of education and about the values that guide out conduct” (95)