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Similarities and Differences: Milgram's Obedience Study vs. Burger's Replication

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Introduction: Psychology Experiments on Obedience: Milgram and Burger Compared

People have two different states of behaviour while they are within a social situation. The thesis statement outlines differences and similarities between Burger's Replication study and Milgram’s obedience study. It is going to consider the aim of both of the researchers as well as provide brief information about both studies and find the similarities and differences for each category. Additionally, it will compare methods of both researchers that the researchers used, as well as it will identify similarities and dissimilarities between the findings of the two studies.

Stanley Milgram carried one of the major famous studies of obedience within psychology study out. Milgram (1963) conducted an experiment by paying attention to the conflict between personal conscience and obedience to authority. Milgram examined justifications regarding acts of genocide provided by those accused of World War II (Banyard , 2010, p. 63). After the experiment of Stanley Milgram, Jerry Burger replicated this experiment and found that the compliance rates within replication were a bit lower compared to those identified by Milgram. Milgram’s obedience study exhibits that contrary to expectations, often people obey an order provided an authority figure even if it is about harming others. Hence, this study demonstrates the length to which people are willing to go just because they are told by someone to do something.

 Although Burger (2009) replicates the study of Milgram (1963) as Milgram (1963) cited in Banyard (2020, p. 67), there are a few similarities between these two studies. The first similarity is about the research aim or purpose. The purpose of the Milgram obedience experiment was to test the extent of the willingness of humans to obey orders from authority figures. Similarly, Burger's (2009) experiment was finding out whether the same outcomes as Milgram’s obedience experiment re-occur if it is replicated with the modern participants or not. Another similarity between the selected two psychological studies is the provided intervention. For example, the test of Milgram obedience incorporated the electric shock (Banyard, 2010, p.72). Similarly, Burger used the same intervention for the replication study to understand whether his results would get the same outcome or not.

Another similarity of these two studies is that both studies contain learner, teacher, and experimenter. In both cases, teachers ask learners some questions, and if learners give any wrong answers, teachers will deliver a shock. The procedure for both studies is quite similar indeed.

However, since Burger (2009) had tried to replicate Milgram’s study, thus, several dissimilarities had been present because Burger had considered the same research aim and intervention; how were changed other procedure to get an insight whether these changes could make any switch in the outcomes or it would give the same results with Milgram’s study. 

At that time, Milgram utilised male participants, as representative of the population of the world (Banyard, 2010, p. 84) Selection process was different from Burger's replication study. Burger had considered both females and males for society’s true representatives. The first difference between Burger's Replication and Milgram obedience studies is that Stanley Milgram mainly concerned general human behaviour and condition, as no difference in rates of obedience between women and men is found. Thus, the study is entirely different from replication study within the sense that researchers relied upon Universalist assumption (Burger, 2009). Hence, Burger’s replication has exhibited that modern participants behaved much similar to Milgram’s assumption, where the former’s experiment has incorporated both men and women to reflect a wider social behaviour. Within psychological research assumes that observable behaviour in a particular population is common between the world's populations. Nevertheless, Burger (2009) argued that 150-volt level in original study was a key point on which participants determined whether to continue obeying, while Milgram’s experiment entailed a 45-volt test shock. In this regard, alongside similarities, Burger (2009) showed a little less obedience than Milgram’s.

Stanley Milgram recruited men of a particular age group (20 to 50 years old) as participants. On the contrary, this selection process was poor sampling as it did not represent the whole population of American society as well as did not represent the entire world in general. Stanley Milgram regarded the position of every person as vital. Therefore, Stanley Milgram illustrated the laboratory's layout. However, in the case of Burger's replication, he had altered Milgram’s experiment. Its laboratory design reflected a maximum of 150-volts as distinct from original 450-volts. In addition, participants were critically screened to eliminate those who might have adverse reactions. It exhibits that experiment design was another difference between these two studies. Later, peer-views upon Milgram’s study disclosed that this study had violated the ethics of the psychological research. Milgram was the first researcher who recommended the utilisation of shocks upon human participants, as well as it has continued for attracting outcry from fellow psychologists. Based on this information, another difference has been identified between Burger’s replication and Milgram obedience studies. The identified difference is the context and setting of the study. A remarkable difference within Burger’s replication research is that it was first recognised psychological research in a few situations that did not generalise the behaviour of humans; therefore, Burger required comprehensive research. 

Another difference between Milgram obedience and Burger’s replication is based on their methodological approach. For example, in the Burger replication study was used large samples, which gave accurate outcomes as compared to the Milgram experiment. While replicating the study of Milgram, Burger made sure that the replication study was paying attention to explaining the extent of obedience within modern society. Thus, the crucial difference within Burger's study was the utilisation of both female and male participants.

 The similarities show that both the researchers used electric shock for the experiment. However, Milgram has given the electric shock in three different segments. For example, in Milgram’s study, the first electric shock was 15 Volts, which was a slight shock, the next level was a severe shock (375 Volts), and the last level was 450 Volts. However, in the case of Milgram, it majorly gave a 45-volt electric shock. In contrast, Burger's replication study used 150 Volts. Regarding the shock giving procedure, dissimilarity has been noticed that is about the condition of giving a shock. For example, in the Milgram experiment, a list of word pairs gave to the learner to learn, then the teacher-tested them though asking naming any word as well as asking learners for recalling their pair from the list of 4 potential choices. However, in Burger's experiment, teachers were asked 25 MCQs (multiple-choice questions) through guidance that they had to answer them using a buzzer. Thus, both experiments have only a few similarities and several differences.

 This essay has aimed to outline the similarities and dissimilarities between two psychological studies for obedience. It has identified the similarities and differences between Milgram’s obedience experiment and Burger's study, which replicated Milgram's experiment. From this discussion, it can be concluded that Burger’s (2009) stuck to the purpose of Milgram’s study as well, as their provided intervention was the same. However, besides these similarities, many differences have been present, for example, changes in the sample population, sample size, disclosure of laboratory layout and power of electric shock.

Reference list

Burger, J. M. (2009).’ Replicating Milgram: Would people still obey today?’. American Psychologist, vol 64,no 1,pp.1-11.

Bynard, P (2010) ‘Just following orders’, in Brace, N. and Byford, J.(eds) Investigating Psychology, Milton Keynes, The Open University.

Milgram, S. (1963). ‘Behavioral study of obedience’. The Journal of abnormal and social psychology, 67(4), 371.

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