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Contesting the “Nature” Of Conformity: What Milgram and Zimbardo's Studies Really Show

  • S. Alexander Haslam mail,

    a.haslam@uq.edu.au

    Affiliation: School of Psychology, University of Queensland, St. Lucia, Australia

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  • Stephen. D. Reicher

    Affiliation: School of Psychology, University of St. Andrews, St Andrews, Scotland

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  • Published: November 20, 2012
  • DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.1001426

Reader Comments (3)

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The mechanism underlying this effect was proposed in 2002.

Posted by mounthell on 22 Nov 2012 at 02:02 GMT

Haslam and Reicher have raised the curtain on a phenomenon that the social sciences have largely accepted, as this body of science so readily tends to do, without wondering whether their subject matter's dynamics were in some remote way connected to those of other life-science subject matter (Long live King Parochialismus!). I congratulate the authors for their initiative here!

However, in discussing Milgram's "Authority" experiment, an earlier author's thesis attributed the "authority" effect to individuals' conformance to those social groups seemingly offering greater resources than alternatives. This dynamic becomes clear when viewed in the context of network relationships and their attendant exchange of resources (real or potential).

Specifically, "...the influence we see as "authority" is better viewed as our immediate estimation of the value of forming and maintaining links with those who offer the prospect of relatively greater value (realizable in the future). The degree to which we have invested in such a network, the additional costs of staying with it versus switching to a new group and the future benefit we anticipate receiving from it, largely determine whether we remain a member."*

Understand that the above quote is the scrap of a rendering of the underlying dynamic joining the phenomena of all life-science subject matter.**

*Hollenberg 2002 "Beginnings: creativity, belief, evolution and our interconnected universe" p. 272;

**(more definitively, see his) 2007 'On the evolution and dynamics of biological networks' "Revista di Biologia/Biology Forum" 100(1) 93-118.

No competing interests declared.