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A Note on Obedience to Authority
Freeman, R. Edward; Wicks, Andrew C. Technical Note E-0070 / Published April 30, 1990 / 9 pages.
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Product Overview

Two experiments are described and discussed in this note. In Milgram's Obedience experiment, subjects acted as "teachers" posing questions to "learners." Inaccurate answers resulted in an electric shock being administered to the learner. When the errors increased in number, the voltage of the shocks was increased to a point of intolerable pain. While the shocks were not real (learners faked their responses), the teachers believed them to be real. The experiment revealed the willingness of the teachers to punish the learners in obedience to directions from the person in authority over them. In the Zimbardo Prison experiment, college students acted either as "prisoners" or "prison guards" in a mock prison setting. Guards had the freedom to run the prison as they saw fit, without direct supervision. Open hostility toward prisoners and rebellion from prisoners soon prevailed. What should have been a two-week experiment was aborted on the fifth day when it became evident that real suffering was being inflicted on the prisoners.

  • Overview

    Two experiments are described and discussed in this note. In Milgram's Obedience experiment, subjects acted as "teachers" posing questions to "learners." Inaccurate answers resulted in an electric shock being administered to the learner. When the errors increased in number, the voltage of the shocks was increased to a point of intolerable pain. While the shocks were not real (learners faked their responses), the teachers believed them to be real. The experiment revealed the willingness of the teachers to punish the learners in obedience to directions from the person in authority over them. In the Zimbardo Prison experiment, college students acted either as "prisoners" or "prison guards" in a mock prison setting. Guards had the freedom to run the prison as they saw fit, without direct supervision. Open hostility toward prisoners and rebellion from prisoners soon prevailed. What should have been a two-week experiment was aborted on the fifth day when it became evident that real suffering was being inflicted on the prisoners.

  • Learning Objectives