Milgram’s obedience studies – not about obedience after all?

March 13, 2011

Those famous ‘obedience to authority’ experiments, involving the apparent electrocution of a subject, were replicated in 2009 at the University of Santa Clara. Now, lots of extra analysis later, some new revelations have emerged. With perhaps the most interesting being that as the experimenter’s instructions became more forceful – or more like a command – their effectiveness declined. In fact when people were told ‘you have no choice, you must continue’ everyone decided to disobey and none reached the maximum voltage. Thus as the experimenters comment: ‘… these uncharacteristic behaviours may not be limited to circumstances in which an authority figure gives orders.’

It always pays to revisit the ‘classics’, more on this in the BPS Research Digest. You’ll also find the abstract at:

Burger, J., Girgis, Z., and Manning, C. (2011). In Their Own Words: Explaining Obedience to Authority Through an Examination of Participants’ Comments. Social Psychological and Personality Science DOI: 10.1177/1948550610397632


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