Spinning an Organizational “Web of Obligation”? Moral Choice in Stanley Milgram’s “Obedience” Experiments.

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    • Abstract:
      Drawing on unpublished documents from his personal archive at Yale University, this article explains how social psychologist and political scientist Stanley Milgram’s new baseline procedure both coerced and tempted most participants into completing his so-called Obedience to Authority (OTA) experiment. This procedure relies cumulatively on a range of manipulative and seductive psychological techniques that progressively and systematically induced most participants to pursue what they sensed to be a morally reprehensible course of action. The article examines a variety of influences at work in Milgram’s controlled laboratory that help understand how functionaries may resolve an moral dilemma in a bureaucratically organized work situation. In doing so, the article also provides an alternative explanation for Milgram’s new baseline findings, one that is more consistent with Bandura’s concept of “moral disengagement” and Barnard’s concept of an organizational “zone of indifference.” It concludes that Milgram’s experiments have less to do with obedience to authority per se and more to do with how people resolve moral dilemmas confronting them in a structured organizational setting. [ABSTRACT FROM PUBLISHER]
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