5-1 Discussion: Variables of Obedience sample paper

After completing the readings and video of the studies by Milgram, Zimbardo, and Asch, answer the following questions: What are the key variables that increase or decrease obedience?

If you were a researcher interested in exploring these variables, what ethical considerations would you need to address? How do these variables impact social welfare or lead to restrict social change?

Some factors that influenced obedience in these studies were Proximity (the experimenter in the Milgram experiment was in the same room as the subject, which likely influenced more obedientresponses); Visual Symbols/Legitimacy of Authority Figure (appearances can elicit obedience – if one looks like an authority figure, he/she is more likely to get more obedience, out of respect for their position); Knowledge (if a participant is not the type to take a lead role, he’s more likelyto give authority over to the group’s leader – i.e. follower not a leader); and Deindividuation/Agentism (if people begin to view themselves as just “obeying orders”, they don’t see themselves as accountable for their actions).

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What are the key variables that increase or decrease obedience?

One variable that influences obedience is the amount of responsibility. For instance, if a person has less responsibility, they are more likely to obey others who are currently accountable for their actions. As personal responsibility goes up, obedience levels decrease because individuals can make the right choice on their behalf. According to Milgram’s Agency Theory, obedience levels change depending on a person’s social conscious. This theory holds that people can be either in the autonomous state or the agency state. In the autonomous state, people tend to assume responsibility for actions. In the agency state, on the other hand, people have limited responsibility since they work as “agents” of others (Millard, 2014).

The other primary variable that may affect obedience is a legitimate authority. Milgram’s obedience study found that individuals have higher levels of obedience if the authority figure is credible (Russell, 2014).

If you were a researcher interested in exploring these variables, what ethical considerations would you need to address? 

I would examine how family upbringing and societal values affect a person’s perception in following orders. A person is influenced by ethical biases like family upbringing in identifying people who have legitimate authority. These moral biases can affect an individual’s level of obedience in following orders. 

How do these variables impact social welfare or lead to restrict social change?

When people have a high likelihood of following orders, they can easily lose control over their duty to take care of their social welfare. Strict orders can create room for dictatorship in governance. Individuals should have values that help them decide which orders to follow. People should be responsible for their actions in order to contribute to improving social welfare.

References

Millard, K. (2014). Revisioning obedience: Exploring the role of Milgram’s skills as a filmmaker   in bringing his shocking narrative to life. Journal of Social Issues, 70(3), 439-455.

Russell, N. (2014). Stanley Milgram’s obedience to authority “relationship” condition: Some             methodological and theoretical implications. Social Sciences, 3(2), 194-214.