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

S.A. Haslam, S.D. Reicher, M.E. Birney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

57 Citations (Scopus)


Milgram's classic studies are widely understood to demonstrate people's natural inclination to obey the orders of those in authority. However, of the prods that Milgram's Experimenter employed to encourage participants to continue the one most resembling an order was least successful. This 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 obedience 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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)473-488
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Social Issues
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

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