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Keith E Rice's Integrated SocioPsychology Blog & Pages

Aligning, integrating and applying the behavioural sciences

Agency Theory’

Milgram’s Obedience Experiments #2

PART 2 The ‘Obedience’ movie In 1965 Milgram boosted his burgeoning notoriety with the release of ‘Obedience’, a movie documentary of a repeat of the classic study. Below is an edited compilation of clips from the movie – copyright © 1991 Alexandra Milgram.   According to such commentators as Hugh Coolican (1996), most people who see the movie are convinced that the behaviour of the participants in ‘Obedience’ is authentic and that the stress caused by their moral strain is real. However, ‘Obedience’ may not be quite what it appears to be, according to Kathryn Millard (2011). In fact, the raw footage for ‘Obedience’ was shot over a weekend in May 1962, using what Milgram called ‘Condition 25’, a slight variation on the classic study. He used the same actors to play ‘Mr Wallace’ and ‘Jack Williams’ as always and the participants were genuinely naive. The camera filmed through the same 2-way mirror Milgram used to observe proceedings. However, it was 1965 before the completed film was made publicly available. Why did it take Milgram so long to make the movie available? Millard (p660) comments on the finished product: “‘Obedience’ is as much art as science, as much drama as experiment. It… Read More

Milgram’s Obedience Experiments

Relaunched: 27 February 2018 “I observed a mature and initially poised businessman enter the laboratory smiling and confident. Within 20 minutes he was reduced to a twitching, stuttering wreck who was rapidly approaching nervous collapse. He constantly pulled on his earlobe and twisted his hands. At one point he pushed his fist into his forehead and muttered, ‘Oh, God, let’s stop it!’ And yet he continued to respond to every word of the experimenter and obeyed to the end.” – Stanley Milgram, 1963 Stanley Milgram’s ‘electric shock’ experiments of the 1960s and 1970s – and the many replications and variations of them throughout the Western world and way beyond – are some of the most audacious, genuinely creative and thought-provoking sociopsychological studies ever undertaken. They provide truly disturbing insights into the human readiness to obey those in authority to the point of carrying out horrific acts of violence, secure in the knowledge that the person is ‘doing the right thing’ and that no unpleasant consequences will follow from carrying out those orders. Yet the experiments are as controversial for validity of their methodologies as their results. The theory the experiments gave birth to, Agentic Shift Theory (aka Agency Theory), despite the strength… Read More

Abu Ghraib, Auschwitz and Mumbai

It is, of course, decidedly early to pronounce on just who is behind the terrorist attacks in Mumbai; but it is almost certainly radical Islamists of one persuasion or another. One senior Indian military officer has claimed that the attackers came from Pakistan – yet one of the gunmen in the Oberoi Trident Hotel managed to get hooked up to a TV channel and told them he was from the ‘Deccan Mujahedeen’, a (previously-unknown) group of Indian Muslim extremists.  Given the marginally-improved state of the usually-hostile/often-verging-on-war relations between India and Pakistan, one might almost be forgiven for hoping it was an internal Indian operation that could not so easily be a catalyst for open military confrontation between the two nuclear powers. However, in light of the Hindu orgies of violence against Muslim communities which have followed previous Islamist terrorist incidents on Indian soil, thousands upon thousands of civilian deaths might prove equally unpalatable.   Where ever the attackers originated from, few will be surprised if they didn’t have at least tacit assistance from radicals in Pakistan. And few will surprised, given the sophisticated level of organisation in the Mumbai attacks, if the hand of al-Qaeda isn’t to be found somewhere in the pulling of the strings.   What… Read More