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Social Influence – Obedience

2. Variations and the Agentic State

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In this lecture, we discuss some of the variations of the original obedience study conducted by Milgram and think about how these led him to develop the theory of the ‘agentic state’, focusing in particular on: (i) a series of conditions in which Milgram varied the proximity between participant and confederate; (ii) some conditions which focused on the relationship between the participant and the authority figure (the experimenter) as a variable; (iii) the theoretical ideas Milgram developed from his research into obedience, focusing in particular on his concept of the ‘agentic state’.


In this course, Dr Stephen Gibson (York St John University) explores Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiments. In the first lecture, we think about Milgram’s experimental procedure and the findings which resulted from his study. In the second lecture, we explore different variations of Milgram’s baseline study and think about the theory of the agentic state which he developed from his work. In the third lecture, we think about some early criticisms of Milgram’s method and ethics. Next, look at more recent studies which have sought to re-examine Milgram’s work in the light of archival records held at Yale University. In the fifth and final lecture, 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.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Gibson, S. (2019, September 27). Social Influence – Obedience - Variations and the Agentic State [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Gibson, S. "Social Influence – Obedience – Variations and the Agentic State." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 27 Sep 2019,

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