"Disobedience when it is not criminally but morally, religiously or politically motivated is always a collective act and it is justified by the values of the collectivity and the mutual engagements of its members."

~Social historian Michael Walzer, 1970 (as quoted in Franzoi 303)

Milgram's Follow-Up Studies to the Obedience Experiment

Above: In this follow-up study to the obedience experiment, the teacher (participant) had to force the learner's (confederate's) hand onto a shock plate. Less than one-third of participants obeyed the experimenter under these conditions (Image and caption from Franzoi 298). See detailed description below.

Since his findings were so unexpected, Milgram conducted several variations of his experiment to better understand the conditions under which obedience and disobedience would most likely to occur. When college students and women were the participants, Milgram found the same level of destructive obedience (Milgram 1974, as cited in Franzoi 300). Other researchers also obtained similar results in other countries, suggesting that such high levels of obedience were not solely an American phenomenon. Australia had a 68 percent obedience level (Kilham and Mann 1974, as cited in Franzoi 300), Jordan had a 63 percent level of obedience (Shanab and Yahya 1977, as cited in Franzoi 300), and Germany had the highest obedience level at 85 percent (Mantell 1971, as cited in Franzoi 300).

Critics suggested initially that the high obedience was due to the prestige of Yale University, and the participants' presumed belief that no one at Yale would permit the actual harm of others (Baumrind 1964 and Orne 1962, as cited in Franzoi 300). To examine this possibility, Milgram moved his experiment to to a run-down site in Bridgeport, Connecticut, which had no obvious affiliations with Yale. Even though obedience decreased slightly, the difference was not significant: 48 percent of participants delivered the maximum shock. Yet even though switching locations from a prestigious university to an ordinary experimental site did not decrease obedience, when the experimenter was replaced with an "ordinary person" (actually, a confederate), obedience dropped to 20 percent. These findings indicate that the social role of "researcher" or "scientist" has sufficient authority and prestige to secure obedience, regardless of the social context (Franzoi 300).

Milgram also discovered that as auditory, visual, and physical contact with the learner increased, the maximum shock participants delivered decreased, especially when the teacher was required to physically touch the learner to administer the shocks (see graph below). Obedience also dropped dramatically when the experimenter left the room, and issued his orders by phone: only 22 percent of subjects obeyed to the end when the experimenter was absent (Franzoi 300; Wortman, Loftus and Weaver 610). (see graph below).

 

Some Factors that Influence Obedience and Disobedience to Authority

 

Above: Some Factors that Influence Obedience and Disobedience to Authority. To determine what factors increase or decrease obedience beyond the basline 65 percent level, Milgram varied the location of the experiment, the participant's proximity to the victim and the experimenter, and the presence of obedient or disobedient confederates. All of these factors influenced obedience levels.

(Source: Data from S. Milgram, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View, Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc., 1974; and S. Milgram, The Individual in a Social World: Essays and Experiments, Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1992) as cited in Franzoi 302.

 

In addition, disobeying an authority was also easier when others modeled defiance. After participants observed two "co-teachers" (confederates) refusing to proceed, only 10 percent obeyed until the end, whereas when the confederates obeyed the experimenter, participants obeyed to the end over 70 percent of the time (Franzoi 302). Conceivably, when the illusion of unanimity is broken, the majoriy of people stop participating in an activity that is morally wrong. These findings indicate the importance of speaking out against observed injustice; protests not only help the victim, but they also encourage the resistance of others as well (Hollander 1975, as cited in Wortman, Loftus and Weaver 610).

 

 

 

Stanley Milgram Homepage
About the obedience experiment
Follow-up Studies
Biography of Stanley Milgram: his life and work
The Results
Interpretations of the Results
Basis for the experiment

Sample Conversations

Works Cited/Useful Links