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Social Influence – Obedience

1. Milgram’s Obedience Experiments

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About this Lecture


In this module, we introduce the obedience experiments conducted by the researcher Stanley Milgram in the 1960s. We begin with a general definition of obedience as a ‘form of social influence elicited in response to direct orders or commands’ and think about Milgram’s experiments as an attempt to measure the levels of obedience shown by people in particular situations. We discuss how the study was set up, including the specific roles of experimenter, participant and confederate, and look at the experimental procedure in which participants were ordered to administer electric shocks to others. Finally, we think about some key findings from Milgram’s classic study and what they can tell us about the ways in which people do or do not obey authority.


In this course, Dr Stephen Gibson (York St John University) discusses Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiments. Module one begins by introducing Milgram’s experimental procedure and the findings which resulted from his study. We then move on, in module two, to explore different variations of Milgram’s baseline study and think about the theory of the agentic state which he developed from his work. Module three covers some early criticisms of Milgram’s method and ethics, while module four looks at more recent studies which have sought to re-examine Milgram’s work in the light of archival records held at Yale University. Finally, in module five, we explore how a re-interpretation of the Milgram experiments in the context of language and rhetoric can lead us to a new definition of the concept of obedience itself.


Dr Stephen Gibson has been at York St John University since September 2005, before which he undertook his doctoral research in the Department of Psychology, Lancaster University. His research uses discursive and rhetorical approaches to explore a range of social psychological topics, including citizenship, national identity, dis/obedience and representations of peace and conflict.

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APA style

Gibson, S. (2019, September 27). Social Influence – Obedience - Milgram’s Obedience Experiments [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Gibson, S. "Social Influence – Obedience – Milgram’s Obedience Experiments." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 27 Sep 2019,

Image Credits

Obedience: A Filmed Experiment (dir. Stanley Milgram, 1965)

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