• 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.