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“Change over Time in Obedience” by Jean Twenge

Summary of the Article

In the article, Twenge Jean reports that Burger conducted a study with the aim of replicating Milgram’s study in 2009 on obedience. In the study, the race was one of the independent variables because it affected other variables. An independent variable is not changed by any other variable as far as measuring is concerned. Burger and Milgram used participants from different races, and this was one of the reasons as to why their studies differed greatly in terms of results. Milgram interviewed participants from the white race, with a few blacks, but he failed to include Hispanic and Asian races, something that affected his results significantly given the fact the sample was not representative. On the other hand, Burger’s sample was representative in the sense that it included participants from all races leading to better results. Gender is another independent variable that has the potential of affecting other variables in the study. For instance, Burger included both men and women in his study, but Milgram interviewed only men, which interfered with the results of his study. Generation is an additional independent variable because it has an overriding effect on the behavior of an individual as regards to obedience. The dependent variables in the two studies in the article are obedience, personality, and behavior, because they are likely to be affected by other variables, especially the independent ones.

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The hypothesis was race, generation, and gender affect people’s obedience and personality, as far as behavior is concerned. In the two studies presented in the article, participants were from various racial backgrounds, with Burger, including those of white, Asian, black, and Hispanic races. Milgram, on the other, involved only the white race and few members of the black race. In terms of gender, Burger’s study interviewed both men and women, but Milgram was only interested in conducting an experiment on men.

The conditions in which Milgram’s and Burger’s studies took place were different. First, the two studies were performed at different times, as Milgram performed his study at a time when obedience was a valued social norm in many families. On the other hand, Burger undertook his experiments when the culture was different owing to the fact children were given more freedom to determine their destinies. Both experiments took place in a laboratory setting whereby participants were taken through certain conditions to test their levels of obedience to other members of society, as well as the authority. In both experiments, a control group was set up to establish whether the generational change, gender, and race have any effect on the behavior of individuals as far as obedience is concerned.

The outcome of the two studies that Burger and Milgram (1974) carried out proved that race, gender, and generation are indeed important factors that affect greatly the way people behave in their daily lives. For instance, elderly people are expected to be respectful and obedient to the social norms and standards because society had a role to play in their socialization process. Unfortunately, the case is different with the new generation (the one Burger refers to as generation me) because parents no longer request their children to observe social standards as set out by the community. The American culture has undergone a major transformation, something that affects the thinking and the behavior of many people in society.

Own Experiment

My study’s main objective would be to test whether culture and generation have any effect on an individual’s behavior, as well as the power of the situation. In the new study, it is identified that disobedience is high among men whereby the trend is compared to the increase in people’s mass index in the US with some analysts labeling the situation as obesity epidemic (Twenge, 2009). However, the study reports that the levels of disobedience vary based on race, with the Asian race being considered submissive to some extent. Similarly, the study establishes that situations have a strong influence on an individual’s behavior meaning any shift on the generation would definitely have a great impact on a person’s way of thinking and behaving, but it does not have the capacity to eliminate the chances of disobedience among people (Twenge, & Campbell, 2008). The results of the study are expected to confirm that personality varies according to generations, with the older generation expected to be obedient, whereas the younger generation is supposed to be disobedient to some extent. In this regard, the young generation is assertive, has high self-esteem, and supports narcissism.

Unfortunately, Burger advised that the current studies could not be generated under similar conditions as the previous ones because of the changes that have taken place in recent years regarding people’s attitudes and behaviors. He referred to the current participants as generation me mainly because the culture is different given the fact the focus is on personal rights as opposed to the duty of an individual in the wider society. In the early 1960s, certain values were respected in the community since an individual was supposed to abide by the social norms, unlike the current generation that is assertive in nature, self-focused, and supportive of narcissism.

The younger generation has higher self-esteem and is always optimistic about the future. In the 20th century, each parent expected his or her child to be obedient since it was an important trait. In the late 1970s, disobedience was in the increase among children because the independence of the child and tolerance were some of the values that parents imparted on their children. While participants referred to the experimenter as sir in Milgram’s study, the case was different in the current studies as Burger suggested in one of the modern research

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Obedience is a dependent variable that is influenced largely by societal culture, just as Milgram’s study concluded. Additionally, people are likely to behave in a certain manner in case they belong to the younger generation meaning the situation influences the behavior of individuals, the way both Milgram and Burger reported in their respective studies. Even though people behave differently based on their ethnicities, the generation they belong, their levels of education, and gender, the situations differ, which confirms that tools used in measuring obedience in the modern society could not be any different from those applied previously by researchers such as Milgram and Burger.

Therefore, similar techniques and tools would be employed in measuring the levels of obedience among individuals in the current studies, but only situations would be different. In conducting a similar study as Burger and Milgram’s, the first step would be to ensure that the sample is representative by involving all the participants, irrespective of their educational levels, race, gender, and marital status. The main aim of any experiment is to capture the behavior of the participants accurately with the sole objective of explaining the phenomena clearly. In this regard, the researcher would first have to ensure all major ethnic groups in the United States are involved, including the Hispanics, blacks, whites, and Asians. Burger (2009) tried to observe this rule, but his participants were not proportional to the population of the races in the country. For instance, the whites would be expected to be represented in high percentage as compared to the blacks and the Hispanics. Similarly, the researcher would have to go the extra mile to include a special population to represent other races not involved in the study.

Independent Variable (IV)

The variables used would be similar to the ones that the two previous obedience researchers, Burger and Milgram, employed, but more would be introduced while some will have to be eliminated. On independent variables, educational levels, and the marital status of participants would be additional independent variables to be introduced because they influence behavior largely, particularly the obedience levels of individuals. Studies suggest that the learned members of society are likely to oppose the authorities, especially when their rights are infringed whereas the less learned are likely to depend on the decisions of the authorities meaning they will most likely obey. Few people were learned as regards to the old generation, and this explains why a majority of people were obedient to the authorities. Since the young generation is learned, very few would be willing to sit back and listen to what the authorities tell them because they are innovative and highly aggressive. Again, many studies on obedience confirm that married people are likely to obey the authorities because they are used to consultations and peaceful resolution of conflicts in a family set up as opposed to unmarried people or children from single families. In a family set up, each member is expected to play his or her role faithfully, and this would influence the behavior of members. For instance, the father is considered the head of the family, and all other members are supposed to respect him. Again, the mother plays a special role in giving adequate care to young members, and this might play a role in imparting discipline to the younger members. Therefore, a mother or a father figure would influence the child or any member to be obedient to the authorities as opposed to its lack.

Dependent Variable (IV)

Dependent variables in the new study would include obedience and personality only because they influenced by the independent variables named above. For instance, the level of education determines an individual’s personality in the sense that someone with higher levels of education has an improved orientation to the world given the fact he or she views things from a different perspective as compared to the less learned person. Based on this, the personality traits of the more learned person is expected to be high, and his or her self-esteem is also high, something that affects obedience negatively because such individuals are more demanding in life and they do not have any business with the authorities in case their requirements are not fulfilled. In this regard, such individuals are troublesome, argumentative, and lack respective. In other words, it is often observed that children from troubled families rarely obey the authority mainly because of their upbringing, which is rarely in accordance with the social standards.

Hypothesis:

Educational levels, gender, marital status, and race influence the personality traits, as well as the obedience levels of individuals. The study’s findings are supposed to support the hypothesis meaning gender, marital status, race, and educational levels influence personality traits and obedience levels among individuals.

Participants:

The number of those to be interviewed in the study would be a sizeable sample of one-hundred and fifty people, with one-hundred males and fifty females. It should be noted that all races, irrespective of educational levels, would be involved in the study.

Condition:

Just the way the previous scholars did, the new study would have two conditions, one of them being the control group and the study group divided into ten separate groups.

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Conducting the Experiment:

The experiment would be carried out in a laboratory setting whereby participants would be taken in based on the group in which they belong. The results would be recorded keenly before drawing up a summary.

Results:

The results would indicate that a correlation exists between the various dependent variables, such as age, gender, marital status, and educational levels and the dependent variables, including obedience and personality traits. In fact, learned people in society are likely to disobey the authorities because they tend to have alternative ways of guiding society. Again, families with stable marriages whereby each member plays his or her responsibility faithfully are likely to obey authorities as opposed to the single families.

References

Burger, J. M. (2009). Replicating Milgram: Would people still obey today? American Psychologist, 64(1), 1–11.

Milgram, S. (1974). Obedience to authority: An experimental view. New York: Harper & Row.

Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, W. K. (2008). Increases in positive self views among high school students: Birth cohort changes in anticipated performance, self-satisfaction, self-liking, and self-competence. Psychological Science, 19(1), 1082–1086.

Twenge, J.M. (2009). Change over Time in Obedience: The Jury’s Still Out, But It Might Be Decreasing. American Psychological Association, 64(1), 28-31.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) '“Change over Time in Obedience” by Jean Twenge'. 9 December.

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