• Nothing by mere authority: Evidence that in an experimental analogue of the Milgram paradigm participants are motivated not by orders but by appeals to science

      Haslam, S. Alexander; Reicher, Stephen D.; Birney, Megan E.; University of Queensland; University of St. Andrews; University of Exeter (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014-09-04)
      Milgram’s classic research in which people follow experimental instructions to continue administering shocks to another person is widely understood to demonstrate people’s natural inclination to obey the orders of those in authority. However, analysis of participants’ responses to prods that Milgram’s Experimenter employed to encourage them to continue indicates that the one that most resembled an order was the least successful. The present study examines the impact of prods more closely by manipulating them between-participants within an analogue paradigm in which participants are instructed to use negative adjectives to describe increasingly pleasant groups. Across all conditions, continuation and completion were positively predicted by the extent to which prods appealed to scientific goals but negatively predicted by the degree to which a prod constituted an order. These results provide no support for the traditional conformity account of Milgram’s findings, but are consistent with an engaged followership model which argues that participants’ willingness to continue with an objectionable task is predicated upon active identification with the scientific project and those leading it.
    • Questioning authority: New perspectives on Milgram’s ‘obedience’ research and its implications for intergroup relations

      Haslam, S. Alexander; Reicher, Stephen D.; Birney, Megan E.; University of Queensland; University of St. Andrews; University of Chester (Elsevier, 2016-04-23)
      Traditionally, Milgram's 'obedience' studies have been used to propose that 'ordinary people' are capable of inflicting great harm on outgroup members because they are predisposed to follow orders. According to this account, people focus so much on being good followers that they become unaware of the consequences of their actions. Atrocity is thus seen to derive from inattention. However recent work in psychology, together with historical reassessments of Nazi perpetrators, questions this analysis. In particular, forensic re-examination of Milgram's own findings, allied to new psychological and historical research, supports an “engaged follower” analysis in which the behaviour of perpetrators is understood to derive from identification with, and commitment to, an ingroup cause that is believed to be noble and worthwhile.