Expert Answer:Analysis of the ethical concerns assignment


Solved by verified expert:InstructionsResearchers must protect participants and be aware of appropriate methods for obtaining information. What ethical considerations are important to research? In about 2 pages, write an analysis of the ethical concerns in the 3 diverse psychological research studies below. Be sure to include a paragraph of overall ethical consideration.This paper should be 2-3 pages in length and use APA formatting (cover page, paper body formatting, citations, and references: see Rasmussen’s APA guide in the Resources tab, or by clicking here. Prior to submitting your paper, be sure you proofread your work to check your spelling and grammar. If you use any outside sources, please cite those sources in APA citation format.Haslam, S. A., & Reicher, S. D. (2012). Contesting the ‘nature’ of conformity: What Milgram and Zimbardo’s studies really show. Plos Biology, 10(11), doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001426Larsen, K. S. (1974). Conformity in the Asch experiment. The Journal Of Social Psychology, 94(2), 303-304. doi:10.1080/00224545.1974.9923224Mischel, W., Ayduk, O., Berman, M. G., Casey, B. J., Gotlib, I. H., Jonides, J., & … Shoda, Y. (2011). ‘Willpower’ over the life span: Decomposing self-regulation. Social Cognitive And Affective Neuroscience, 6(2), 252-256. doi:10.1093/scan/nsq081Grading RubricFFCBA01234Did not SubmitNo PassCompetenceProficiencyMasteryNot SubmittedNo analysis of ethical concerns from paper 1.Analyzes ethical concerns from paper 1, but lacks explanation.Analyzes ethical concerns from paper 1, but explanation is underdeveloped.Analyzes ethical concerns from paper 1, fully explains.Not SubmittedNo analysis of ethical concerns from paper 2.Analyzes ethical concerns from paper 2, but lacks explanation.Analyzes ethical concerns from paper 2, but explanation is underdeveloped.Analyzes ethical concerns from paper 2, fully explains.Not SubmittedNo analysis of ethical concerns from paper 3.Analyzes ethical concerns from paper 3, but lacks explanation.Analyzes ethical concerns from paper 3, but explanation is underdeveloped.Analyzes ethical concerns from paper 3, fully explains.Not SubmittedNo noticeable attempt to define any ethical considerationsAttempts to define ethical considerations with some supporting evidence.Attempts to define ethical considerations with adequate supporting evidence.Thoroughly critiques define ethical considerations with strong supporting evidence.


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Contesting the ‘‘Nature’’ Of Conformity: What Milgram
and Zimbardo’s Studies Really Show
S. Alexander Haslam1*, Stephen D. Reicher2
1 School of Psychology, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Australia, 2 School of Psychology, University of St. Andrews, St Andrews, Scotland
Abstract: Understanding of the
psychology of tyranny is dominated by classic studies from the 1960s
and 1970s: Milgram’s research on
obedience to authority and Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment. Supporting popular notions
of the banality of evil, this research
has been taken to show that
people conform passively and unthinkingly to both the instructions
and the roles that authorities provide, however malevolent these
may be. Recently, though, this
consensus has been challenged by
empirical work informed by social
identity theorizing. This suggests
that individuals’ willingness to follow authorities is conditional on
identification with the authority in
question and an associated belief
that the authority is right.
If men make war in slavish obedience to
rules, they will fail.
Ulysses S. Grant [1]
Conformity is often criticized on
grounds of morality. Many, if not all, of
the greatest human atrocities have been
described as ‘‘crimes of obedience’’ [2].
However, as the victorious American Civil
War General and later President Grant
makes clear, conformity is equally problematic on grounds of efficacy. Success
requires leaders and followers who do not
adhere rigidly to a pre-determined script.
Rigidity cannot steel them for the challenges of their task or for the creativity of
their opponents.
Given these problems, it would seem
even more unfortunate if human beings
were somehow programmed for conformity. Yet this is a view that has become
dominant over the last half-century. Its
influence can be traced to two landmark
empirical programs led by social psychologists in the 1960s and early 1970s:
Milgram’s Obedience to Authority research and Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison
Experiment. These studies have not only
had influence in academic spheres. They
have spilled over into our general culture
and shaped popular understanding, such
that ‘‘everyone knows’’ that people inevitably succumb to the demands of authority,
however immoral the consequences [3,4].
As Parker puts it, ‘‘the hopeless moral of the
[studies’] story is that resistance is futile’’
[5]. What is more, this work has shaped our
understanding not only of conformity but of
human nature more broadly [6].
Building on an established body of theorizing in the social identity tradition—which
sees group-based influence as meaningful and
conditional [7,8]—we argue, however, that
these understandings are mistaken. Moreover,
we contend that evidence from the studies
themselves (as well as from subsequent
research) supports a very different analysis of
the psychology of conformity.
The Classic Studies: Conformity,
Obedience, and the Banality Of Evil
In Milgram’s work [9,10] members of
the general public (predominantly men)
volunteered to take part in a scientific
study of memory. They found themselves
cast in the role of a ‘‘Teacher’’ with the
task of administering shocks of increasing
magnitude (from 15 V to 450 V in 15-V
increments) to another man (the ‘‘Learner’’) every time he failed to recall the
correct word in a previously learned pair.
Unbeknown to the Teacher, the Learner
was Milgram’s confederate, and the shocks
were not real. Moreover, rather than
being interested in memory, Milgram
was actually interested in seeing how far
the men would go in carrying out the task.
To his—and everyone else’s [11]—shock,
the answer was ‘‘very far.’’ In what came
to be termed the ‘‘baseline’’ study [12] all
participants proved willing to administer
shocks of 300 V and 65% went all the way
to 450 V. This appeared to provide
compelling evidence that normal welladjusted men would be willing to kill a
complete stranger simply because they
were ordered to do so by an authority.
Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment took these ideas further by exploring
the destructive behaviour of groups of men
over an extended period [13,14]. Students
were randomly assigned to be either
guards or prisoners within a mock prison
that had been constructed in the Stanford
Psychology Department. In contrast to
Milgram’s studies, the objective was to
observe the interaction within and between the two groups in the absence of an
obviously malevolent authority. Here,
again, the results proved shocking. Such
was the abuse meted out to the prisoners
by the guards that the study had to be
terminated after just 6 days. Zimbardo’s
conclusion from this was even more
alarming than Milgram’s. People descend
into tyranny, he suggested, because they
conform unthinkingly to the toxic roles
that authorities prescribe without the need
for specific orders: brutality was ‘‘a
‘natural’ consequence of being in the
uniform of a ‘guard’ and asserting the
power inherent in that role’’ [15].
Citation: Haslam SA, Reicher SD (2012) Contesting the ‘‘Nature’’ Of Conformity: What Milgram and Zimbardo’s
Studies Really Show. PLoS Biol 10(11): e1001426. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001426
Published November 20, 2012
Copyright: ß 2012 Haslam, Reicher. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative
Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,
provided the original author and source are credited.
Funding: The authors received no specific funding for this work.
Essays articulate a specific perspective on a topic of
broad interest to scientists.
Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.
* E-mail:
PLOS Biology |
November 2012 | Volume 10 | Issue 11 | e1001426
Within psychology, Milgram and Zimbardo helped consolidate a growing ‘‘conformity bias’’ [16] in which the focus on
compliance is so strong as to obscure
evidence of resistance and disobedience
[17]. However their arguments proved
particularly potent because they seemed to
mesh with real-world examples—particularly evidence of the ‘‘banality of evil.’’
This term was coined in Hannah Arendt’s
account of the trial of Adolf Eichmann
[18], a chief architect of the Nazis’ ‘‘final
solution to the Jewish question’’ [19].
Despite being responsible for the transportation of millions of people to their
death, Arendt suggested that Eichmann
was no psychopathic monster. Instead his
trial revealed him to be a diligent and
efficient bureaucrat—a man more concerned with following orders than with
asking deep questions about their morality
or consequence.
Much of the power of Milgram and
Zimbardo’s research derives from the fact
that it appears to give empirical substance
to this claim that evil is banal [3]. It seems
to show that tyranny is a natural and
unavoidable consequence of humans’ inherent motivation to bend to the wishes of
those in authority—whoever they may be
and whatever it is that they want us to do.
Put slightly differently, it operationalizes an
apparent tragedy of the human condition:
our desire to be good subjects is stronger
than our desire to be subjects who do good.
Questioning the Consensus:
Conformity Isn’t Natural and It
Doesn’t Explain Tyranny
The banality of evil thesis appears to be
a truth almost universally acknowledged.
Not only is it given prominence in social
psychology textbooks [20], but so too it
informs the thinking of historians [21,22],
political scientists [23], economists [24],
and neuroscientists [25]. Indeed, via a
range of social commentators, it has
shaped the public consciousness much
more broadly [26], and, in this respect,
can lay claim to being the most influential
data-driven thesis in the whole of psychology [27,28].
Yet despite the breadth of this consensus, in recent years, we and others have
reinterrogated its two principal underpinnings—the archival evidence pertaining to
Eichmann and his ilk, and the specifics of
Milgram and Zimbardo’s empirical demonstrations—in ways that tell a very
different story [29].
First, a series of thoroughgoing historical examinations have challenged the idea
that Nazi bureaucrats were ever simply
PLOS Biology |
following orders [19,26,30]. This may
have been the defense they relied upon
when seeking to minimize their culpability
[31], but evidence suggests that functionaries like Eichmann had a very good
understanding of what they were doing
and took pride in the energy and application that they brought to their work.
Typically too, roles and orders were
vague, and hence for those who wanted
to advance the Nazi cause (and not all
did), creativity and imagination were
required in order to work towards the
regime’s assumed goals and to overcome
the challenges associated with any given
task [32]. Emblematic of this, the practical
details of ‘‘the final solution’’ were not
handed down from on high, but had to be
elaborated by Eichmann himself. He then
felt compelled to confront and disobey his
superiors—most particularly Himmler—
when he believed that they were not
sufficiently faithful to eliminationist Nazi
principles [19].
Second, much the same analysis can be
used to account for behavior in the
Stanford Prison Experiment. So while it
may be true that Zimbardo gave his
guards no direct orders, he certainly gave
them a general sense of how he expected
them to behave [33]. During the orientation session he told them, amongst other
things, ‘‘You can create in the prisoners
feelings of boredom, a sense of fear to
some degree, you can create a notion of
arbitrariness that their life is totally
controlled by us, by the system, you,
me… We’re going to take away their
individuality in various ways. In general
what all this leads to is a sense of
powerlessness’’ [34]. This contradicts Zimbardo’s assertion that ‘‘behavioral scripts
associated with the oppositional roles of
prisoner and guard [were] the sole source
of guidance’’ [35] and leads us to question
the claim that conformity to these rolerelated scripts was the primary cause of
guard brutality.
But even with such guidance, not all
guards acted brutally. And those who did
used ingenuity and initiative in responding
to Zimbardo’s brief. Accordingly, after the
experiment was over, one prisoner confronted his chief tormentor with the
observation that ‘‘If I had been a guard I
don’t think it would have been such a
masterpiece’’ [34]. Contrary to the banality of evil thesis, the Zimbardo-inspired
tyranny was made possible by the active
engagement of enthusiasts rather than the
leaden conformity of automatons.
Turning, third, to the specifics of
Milgram’s studies, the first point to note
is that the primary dependent measure
(flicking a switch) offers few opportunities
for creativity in carrying out the task.
Nevertheless, several of Milgram’s findings
typically escape standard reviews in which
the paradigm is portrayed as only yielding
up evidence of obedience. Initially, it is
clear that the ‘‘baseline study’’ is not
especially typical of the 30 or so variants
of the paradigm that Milgram conducted.
Here the percentage of participants going
to 450 V varied from 0% to nearly 100%,
but across the studies as a whole, a
majority of participants chose not to go
this far [10,36,37].
Furthermore, close analysis of the
experimental sessions shows that participants are attentive to the demands made
on them by the Learner as well as the
Experimenter [38]. They are torn between
two voices confronting them with irreconcilable moral imperatives, and the fact that
they have to choose between them is a
source of considerable anguish. They
sweat, they laugh, they try to talk and
argue their way out of the situation. But
the experimental set-up does not allow
them to do so. Ultimately, they tend to go
along with the Experimenter if he justifies
their actions in terms of the scientific
benefits of the study (as he does with the
prod ‘‘The experiment requires that you
continue’’) [39]. But if he gives them a
direct order (‘‘You have no other choice,
you must go on’’) participants typically
refuse. Once again, received wisdom
proves questionable. The Milgram studies
seem to be less about people blindly
conforming to orders than about getting
people to believe in the importance of
what they are doing [40].
Tyranny as a Product of
Our suspicions about the plausibility of
the banality of evil thesis and its various
empirical substrates were first raised
through our work on the BBC Prison
Study (BPS [41]). Like the Stanford study,
this study randomly assigned men to
groups as guards and prisoners and
examined their behaviour with a specially
created ‘‘prison.’’ Unlike Zimbardo, however, we took no leadership role in the
study. Without this, would participants
conform to a hierarchical script or resist it?
The study generated three clear findings. First, participants did not conform
automatically to their assigned role. Second, they only acted in terms of group
membership to the extent that they
actively identified with the group (such
that they took on a social identification)
November 2012 | Volume 10 | Issue 11 | e1001426
[42]. Third, group identity did not mean
that people simply accepted their assigned
position; instead, it empowered them to
resist it. Early in the study, the Prisoners’
identification as a group allowed them
successfully to challenge the authority of
the Guards and create a more egalitarian
system. Later on, though, a highly committed group emerged out of dissatisfaction
with this system and conspired to create a
new hierarchy that was far more draconian.
Ultimately, then, the BBC Prison Study
came close to recreating the tyranny of the
Stanford Prison Experiment. However it
was neither passive conformity to roles nor
blind obedience to rules that brought the
study to this point. On the contrary, it was
only when they had internalized roles and
rules as aspects of a system with which
they identified that participants used them
as a guide to action. Moreover, on the
basis of this shared identification, the
hallmark of the tyrannical regime was
not conformity but creative leadership and
engaged followership within a group of
true believers (see also [43,44]). As we
have seen, this analysis mirrors recent
conclusions about the Nazi tyranny. To
complete the argument, we suggest that it
is also applicable to Milgram’s paradigm.
The evidence, noted above, about the
efficacy of different ‘‘prods’’ already points
to the fact that compliance is bound up
with a sense of commitment to the
experiment and the experimenter over
and above commitment to the learner (S.
Haslam, SD Reicher, M. Birney, unpublished data) [39]. This use of prods is but
one aspect of Milgram’s careful management of the paradigm [13] that is aimed at
securing participants’ identification with
the scientific enterprise.
Significantly, though, the degree of
identification is not constant across all
variants of the study. For instance, when
the study is conducted in commercial
premises as opposed to prestigious Yale
University labs one might expect the
identification to diminish and (as our
argument implies) compliance to decrease.
It does. More systematically, we have
examined variations in participants’ identification with the Experimenter and the
science that he represents as opposed to
their identification with the Learner and
the general community. They always
identify with both to some degree—hence
The banality of evil thesis shocks us by
claiming that decent people can be
transformed into oppressors as a result of
their ‘‘natural’’ conformity to the roles and
rules handed down by authorities. More
particularly, the inclination to conform is
thought to suppress oppressors’ ability to
engage intellectually with the fact that
what they are doing is wrong.
Although it remains highly influential,
this thesis loses credibility under close
empirical scrutiny. On the one hand, it
ignores copious evidence of resistance
even in studies held up as demonstrating
that conformity is inevitable [17]. On the
other hand, it ignores the evidence that
those who do heed authority in doing evil
do so knowingly not blindly, actively not
passively, creatively not automatically.
They do so out of belief not by nature,
out of choice not by necessity. In short,
they should be seen—and judged—as
engaged followers not as blind conformists
What was truly frightening about Eichmann was not that he was unaware of
what he was doing, but rather that he
knew what he was doing and believed it to
be right. Indeed, his one regret, expressed
prior to his trial, was that he had not killed
more Jews [19]. Equally, what is shocking
about Milgram’s experiments is that rather
than being distressed by their actions [46],
participants could be led to construe them
as ‘‘service’’ in the cause of ‘‘goodness.’’
To understand tyranny, then, we need
to transcend the prevailing orthodoxy that
this derives from something for which
humans have a natural inclination—a
‘‘Lucifer effect’’ to which they succumb
thoughtlessly and helplessly (and for
which, therefore, they cannot be held
accountable). Instead, we need to understand two sets of inter-related processes:
those by which authorities advocate oppression of others and those that lead
followers to identify with these authorities.
How did Milgram and Zimbardo justify
the harmful acts they required of their
participants and why did participants
identify with them—some more than
These questions are complex and full
answers fall beyond the scope of this essay.
Yet, regarding advocacy, it is striking how
destructive acts were presented as constructive, particularly in Milgram’s case,
where scientific progress was the warrant
for abuse. Regarding identification, this
reflects several elements: the personal
histories of individuals that render some
group memberships more plausible than
others as a source of self-definition; the
relationship between the identities on offer
in the immediate context and other
identities that are held and valued in other
contexts; and the structure of the local
context that makes certain ways of orienting oneself to the social world seem more
‘‘fitting’’ than others [41,47,48].
At root, the fundamental point is that
tyranny does not flourish because perpetrators are helpless and ignorant of their
actions. It flourishes because they actively
identify with those who promote vicious
acts as virtuous [49]. It is this conviction
that steels participants to do their dirty
work and that makes them work energetically and creatively to ensure its success.
Moreover, this work is something for
which they actively wish to be held
accountable—so long as it secures the
approbation of those in power.
4. Jetten J, Hornsey MJ (Eds.) (2011) Rebels in
groups: dissent, deviance, difference and defiance.
Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.
5. Parker I (2007) Revolution in social psychology:
alienation to emancipation. London: Pluto Press.
6. Smith, JR, Haslam SA. (Eds.) (2012) Social psychology: revisiting the classic studies. London: Sage.
7. Turner JC (1991) Social influence. Buckingham,
UK: Open University Press.
8. Turner JC, Hogg MA, Oakes PJ, Reicher SD,
Wetherell MS (1987). Rediscovering the social
the drama and the tension of the paradigm. But the degree matters, and greater
identification with the Experimenter is
highly predictive of a greater willingness
among Milgram’s participants to administer the maximum shock across the paradigm’s many variants [37].
However, some of the most compelling
evidence that participa …
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