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Saving a victim from himself: the rhetoric of the learner’s presence and absence in the Milgram experiments

Kaposi, David (2020). Saving a victim from himself: the rhetoric of the learner’s presence and absence in the Milgram experiments. British Journal of Social Psychology (Early Access).

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DOI (Digital Object Identifier) Link: https://doi.org/10.1111/bjso.12369
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Abstract

This paper contests what has remained a core assumption in social psychological and general understandings of the Milgram experiments. Analysing the learner/victim’s rhetoric in experimental sessions across five conditions (N= 170), it demonstrates that what participants were exposed to was not the black-and-white scenario of being pushed towards continuation by the experimental authority and pulled towards discontinuation by the learner/victim. Instead, the traditionally posited explicit collision of “forces” or “identities” was at all points of the experiments undermined by an implicit collusion between them: rendering the learner/victim a divided and contradictory subject, and the experimental process a constantly shifting and paradoxical experiential-moral field. As a result, the paper concludes that evaluating the participants’ conduct requires an understanding of the experiments where morality and non-destructive agency were not simple givens to be applied to a transparent case, but had to be re-created anew – in the face not just of their explicit denial by the experimenter but also of their implicit denial by the victim.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2020 The British Psychological Society
ISSN: 0144-6665
Keywords: Milgram experiments; rhetoric; social identity; experience; morality; agency
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > Psychology and Counselling > Psychology
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) > Psychology and Counselling
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS)
Item ID: 69228
Depositing User: David Kaposi
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2020 17:07
Last Modified: 10 Mar 2020 21:55
URI: http://oro.open.ac.uk/id/eprint/69228
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