You won't need ALL the material on this page. The Examiner expects you to be able to explain how different factors affect obedience and prejudice. The Exam could ask you specifically about CULTURE. The Exam could also ask about "situational factors" (or "environment") in general. Make sure you have a study or theory you can write about for how situations/environments affect obedience and prejudice - but it's up to you which evidence you learn. You won't be asked specifically about any of the studies or concepts on this page.
As well as individual differences, there are circumstances that affect whether or not people obey. These circumstances are known as situational variables.
The Exam might refer to them as "the environment"
SITUATIONS & OBEDIENCE
Milgram's "Variations" explore a number of situational variables which increase or decrease obedience or else have no effect.
In Variation #10, Milgram compares obedience at prestigious Yale University to obedience in a shabby downtown office, with the Experimenter claiming to work for a private research company. Obedience goes down from 65% (baseline) to 45.5%. This is a drop, but not as big as in Variation #7. Milgram concludes that the location is much less important than the physical presence of the authority figure.
Lots of other researchers have investigated the effects of situational variables on obedience.
Giving a patient a drug without the doctor being physically present was against the hospital's rules but, more importantly, the dosage ordered by Doctor Smith was 4 times the safe limit. A real doctor was on hand to intervene and stop the nurse from actually giving the patient the drug.
21 out of the 22 nurses obeyed the unknown doctor. When Hofling asked other nurses by questionnaire whether they would break hospital rules in this way, 31 out of 33 said they wouldn't. This goes to show that, when people are alone with no one else to turn to, they tend to be more obedient.
Milgram also found that obedience decreased when there were other participants present: in Variation #17, with two other confederates pretending to be participants who refused to go past 150V, the obedience dropped from 65% (baseline, isolated condition) to 10%.
Crash Course Psychology covers this topic. Milgram is at 0:30
SITUATIONS & PREJUDICE
Sherif and Tajfel both propose that people easily fall into an in-group/out-group mentality, but there are situational factors that make this more likely.
This big difference between Realistic Conflict Theory and Social Identity Theory is the importance of competition.
According to SIT, there's no need for competition. Just recognising that someone is from an out-group is enough - all by itself! - to trigger prejudice and discrimination will follow.
"Charisma" is influence over other people's emotions. A "charismatic leader" is someone other people look up to and want to follow. Charismatic leaders can promote prejudice and discrimination or they can oppose it.
The Pathology of Power
In the famous Stanford Prison Experiment (1971), Philip Zimbardo turned the basement of Stanford University Psychology Department into a simulated prison and recruited students to play the roles of prisoners and guards, with himself as "Governor".
The study was supposed to run for a month but was cancelled after 6 days because the guards became so hostile towards the prisoners, while the prisoners suffered breakdowns. The guards became authoritarian - the power "went to their heads" and they psychologically tortured the prisoners. Zimbardo himself got "sucked into" his role as Governor. It was his fiancee, Christina Maslach, whose shocked reaction made him realise what he was encouraging was wrong.
Crash Course Psychology covers prejudice & discrimination. Prejudice is defined at 2:15 and in-groups/out-groups at 7:30
SITUATIONS VS DISPOSITIONS
Dispositions are the opposite of situations. They are facts about you which remain true all the time, even the your situation may change. They include things like your cultural beliefs, your age and gender and your personality. They are also known as individual differences.
How much of our behaviour is due to situations and how much to dispositions is a big debate in Social Psychology. The social psychologists of the 1950s, '60s and '70s (Sherif, Milgram, Zimbardo) tended to rate situations as more important than dispositions. Psychologists today think it is a blend of both. This is an example of Psychology changing over time.
RESEARCH INTO CULTURAL VARIABLES & OBEDIENCE
Milgram's obedience studies were all on Americans. America is a Western culture which values individualism particularly highly; it is also a democratic culture with relatively little deference (although American culture in the 1960s was more deferential than it is today). Furthermore, face-saving or shame does not play a big part in American culture.
Because of this, we might expect obedience levels to be higher in many other cultures, but perhaps lower in cultures even less deferential and even more individualistic than the USA.
Cross-cultural studies investigate this by replicating American studies like Milgram's in other countries and comparing the results to Milgram's original (baseline) findings.
In the UK, South Africa, Spain and Austria, replications found 50-87.5 % of participants were fully obedient. This supports Milgram's results, where 65% of participants were fully obedient. The results of cross-cultural studies are summed up below:
Beware: not all of these studies were full replications. For example, Meeus & Raaijmakers (1986) only ordered their Dutch participants to insult the confederate, not shock him.
When viewed cross-culturally, the American participants seem to have quite low levels of obedience. Thomas Blass, a psychologist and Holocaust survivor who has written books on Milgram, calculates the mean obedience for US studies to be 61% and the rest of the world to be 66% (Blass, 2002).
Kilham & Mann (1974) stands out, with an overall obedience level among Australians of 28%, less than half of Milgram's baseline 65%. Are the Australians really fierce individualists who don't defer to authority?
Yeah, that must be it
The cross-cultural study worth looking at in detail comes from Jordan in the 1970s.
SHANAB & YAHYA (1978): A CROSS-CULTURAL STUDY OF OBEDIENCE
This study was carried out at the University of Jordan in Amman. It followed a year after the 1977 study on children and recruited 48 university students, 24 male and 24 female.
The procedure replicated Milgram's baseline (1963) study, except for the following changes:
There were some interesting results:
12.5% of participants who received NO ORDERS still choose to shock a fellow human being unconscious and (for all they knew) to death.
Shanab & Yahya regard their results as supporting Milgram's Agency Theory and the idea that obedience is universal (found in every culture); they don't comment on the oddity of the over-obedient Controls.
Of course, Milgram didn't have a Control Group. Perhaps, if he had given his participants the choice, 1 in 8 Americans would also have taken it upon themselves to shock an innocent man to death.
Shanab & Yahya also comment that
No subject appeared to be affected adversely throughout the experiment - Mitri Shanab & Khawla Yahya
This qualitative data contrasts with the shaking, groaning, hysterical laughter and fainting in Milgram's 1963 study. It strengthens the impression that there are some cultural differences in obedience.
APPLYING THESE FACTORS TO OBEDIENCE
EVALUATING FACTORS IN OBEDIENCE & PREJUDICE (AO3)