This learning material is a YouTube video (5.59 minutes) that presents the Milgram Obedience Experiment. The video is Part 1 of a three-part series shown on BBC TV in May 2009. All three parts of the video series are approximately 5 to 6 minutes in length and are available from YouTube.
This series depicts real experimenters and participants in one of the famous Milgram experiments on conformity to authority. Included are the set-up for the experiment (i.e., discussing with the participants that it is a “memory study”), the experimental procedure itself including comments from the participants and the experimenter, along with the debriefing process. This video may be utilized in a number of areas of psychology, including social psychology, introductory psychology, moral/ethical/research methodology units of study, and likely in many other possible applications. While the film is dated in terms of time of capture, the value of viewing this information outweighs the age of the film.
This video series raises the question: "Why did so many of the participants in this experiment perform a seemingly sadistic act on the instruction of an authority figure?" Specific learning goals include the following.
1. Understand the psychological concepts of conformity and obedience to authority.
2. Understand concepts in research protocols of deception and debriefing.
Target Student Population:
This video series is likely most appropriately applied at the undergraduate level, specifically to students who are not yet highly familiar with research practices, ethics of research, and other such protocols.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
Only basic computer usage skills are needed for viewing the videos on this site. No basic knowledge of psychology or research methodology is needed, though reviewing basic principles of ethics in research prior to watching the video may make this exercise more useful.
Type of Material:
Presentation (video series)
This video may be applied as an independent viewing activity for students or it may be presented to a group in-class. It is recommended that the professor initially have students review basic ethics in research prior to showing the video or asking students to view it. This could in turn be followed up post-viewing with application questions to ensure that students understand the material and comprehend its implications (including how to apply it to real-life work in specific scenarios relative to ethics and research practices and protocols).
A basic web browser needed; used IE 9 and Adobe Flash Player 11.4+ to review this site, and all content loaded with no trouble and quickly.
Evaluation and Observation
• The three videos in this series provide a great overview of the concepts, based on the live filming of the experiments and the debriefing experiences.
• Part 1 effectively illustrates both the participants’ struggle with and acceptance of compliance.
• The material is dated and clearly from a much earlier time; however, since the purpose is to display real video from earlier timeframes, this is less of a concern and simply of note that students may find the language, attire, and environments somewhat dated. Provided the professor explains the value of this material across time contexts, this should be fine.
• Since this material is presented entirely as video with only brief explanations at the beginning and then at the end, it is not presented in terms of an educational unit. Therefore, there is no tie-in provided to relevant literature. It would be useful if this material included a modern or updated list of related references or a website that further details information pertinent to the topic at hand (e.g., a reference or link to the original experiment, historical references to World War II and the Holocaust, references to contemporary world issues).
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
• Summary information at the beginning as well as at the end of the series provides clear connections to the concepts applied.
• This particular video series allows for numerous, highly diverse forms of assignments to be created prior to as well as during and throughout the viewing of the videos. Faculty may use this material in numerous different teaching and learning scenarios and would likely find multiple classes in which it would be useful across the undergraduate curriculum.
• A common concern with YouTube offerings is that background material, lesson plan, goals, and objectives are not part of the format. Instructors and students need to take responsibility to look further to deepen understanding of the topic.
• Since this particular series is simply a recording of a set of experiments, it was not designed with the intention of being used as a learning content item. From that perspective, it is missing such elements as stated learning objectives, overt notations of prerequisites, or structured connections between concepts.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
• The link works effectively (quick to load and easy to use).
• The video is brief and is associated with closed captioning.
• Design quality occasionally appears minimal simply due to the age of the video footage; the video could be enhanced by correcting the closed captioning to match the spoken audio.
• As a one-way video series, the material does not engender interactivity.
Other Issues and Comments:
Part 2/3 and part 3/3 of this three-part video series should be included in order to present this resource in its entirety. The URLs appear below.
• Part 2/3: http://youtu.be/IzTuz0mNlwU
• Part 3/3: http://youtu.be/CmFCoo-cU3Y