Shock treatment: using immersive digital realism to restage and re-examine Milgram's 'Obedience to Authority' research

S. Alexander Haslam, Stephen D. Reicher, Kathryn Millard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
60 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Attempts to revisit Milgram's "Obedience to Authority" (OtA) paradigm present serious ethical challenges. In recent years new paradigms have been developed to circumvent these challenges but none involve using Milgram's own procedures and asking naïve participants to deliver the maximum level of shock. This was achieved in the present research by using Immersive Digital Realism (IDR) to revisit the OtA paradigm. IDR is a dramatic method that involves a director collaborating with professional actors to develop characters, the strategic withholding of contextual information, and immersion in a realworld environment. 14 actors took part in an IDR study in which they were assigned to conditions that restaged Milgrams's New Baseline ("Coronary") condition and four other variants. Post-experimental interviews also assessed participants' identification with Experimenter and Learner. Participants' behaviour closely resembled that observed in Milgram's original research. In particular, this was evidenced by (a) all being willing to administer shocks greater than 150 volts, (b) nearuniversal refusal to continue after being told by the Experimenter that "you have no other choice, you must continue" (Milgram's fourth prod and the one most resembling an order), and (c) a strong correlation between the maximum level of shock that participants administered and the mean maximum shock delivered in the corresponding variant in Milgram's own research. Consistent with an engaged follower account, relative identification with the Experimenter (vs. the Learner) was also a good predictor of the maximum shock that participants administered.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere109015
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalPLoS ONE
Volume10
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2 Mar 2015

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2015. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

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