Situational pressure, racial stereotypes, and conformity in laboratory aggression Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/vd66w4594

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  • This investigation was designed to assess the effects of a victim's race and stereotypical characteristics on another subject's willingness to administer punishment within the context of a teacher-learner paradigm. In addition, this study sought to empirically test the validity of the social-psychological theory that states that theories of social behavior are primarily reflections of contemporary history. Specific to the paradigm involved in this investigation, this theory advocates that the availability of information concerning models of social conformity sensitizes people to factors that may lead them into socially deplorable actions. In other words, if this theory is valid, we would expect that subjects' familiarity with information concerning the pressures and typical outcomes involved in this type of situation would insulate them against the future efficacy of these same factors when confronted with them in a similar situation. Utilizing Milgram's "remote condition" teacher-learner paradigm and the methodological modifications introduced by Larsen, forty-four male and female subjects were exposed to either a black or white "learner", either portraying an assimilative or salient stereotype in appearance, speech and manner. The results produced several conclusions: (1) in spite of their belief that they were indeed hurting a helpless victim, and in the absence of any censure by significant others for appearing racially prejudiced coupled with the implicit legitimacy of the situation, white subjects are more willing to administer punishment to a black victim than a white victim, (2) male and female subjects show no significant differences in behavior in situations of this variety, (3) the stereotypical characteristics of the victim have a profound effect on the magnitude of aversive stimulation delivered to him; the magnitude of the punishment increases significantly as the stereotype portrayed by the victim increases in saliency, and (4) the assumptions forwarded by Gergen that people's familiarity with factors operating in social conformity which induce individuals to act contrary to the dictates of their conscience sensitizes them to the future efficacy of these factors, are invalid. These findings were discussed in terms of the previous research, the social cost phenomenon, their implications for social change and the future of mankind. The results also raised further unanswered questions as to topics of possible future research.
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