The dramaturgical devices of Stanley Milgram's obedience to authority experiment

Oppenheimer, Maya Rae (2015) The dramaturgical devices of Stanley Milgram's obedience to authority experiment. PhD thesis, Birkbeck, University of London.

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Stanley Milgram’s obedience experiment is one of the most famous experiments in the history of psychology. This magnanimous statement, and so many others like it, is invariably followed by a claim that Milgram proved the majority of people will harm another person if instructed to do so by an authority figure. This thesis is a close and experiential reading of Milgram’s obedience to authority experiment conducted at Yale University between 1960 and 1963 not to ascertain the truth behind such claims but to accept them and build a narrative towards how they came to be. Milgram’s experiments are a complex and nuanced case study with which to examine the transferential relationship between science and culture. Taking the simulated shock generator as an omnipresent and invaluable aspect of Milgram’s laboratory apparatus, I introduce a specific way of seeing the paradigm: as a metaphorical model for critiquing the social world rather than measuring and generalising our role as agents within it. Incorporating a visual rhetorical approach mixed with design history, media studies and history of science, I also demonstrate the importance of fiction in methodological investigations in both history as well as social science. These directions help me answer the question of: what can we learn from looking at this well-worn subject from an object perspective; and what happens to a laboratory instrument when we take it out of its disciplinary enclave of empirical science? The result is an imminent critique about representational frameworks, the pursuit of knowledge and how we draw upon structures of investigation to simultaneously inform and critique the social world. My research draws heavily upon the Stanley Milgram Papers at Yale University, the Archive of the History of American Psychology at University of Akron, and Dramaco Instruments, a fictional and informative resource.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: Date of PhD award confirmed as 2015 by registry
Copyright Holders: The copyright of this thesis rests with the author, who asserts his/her right to be known as such according to the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. No dealing with the thesis contrary to the copyright or moral rights of the author is permitted.
School/Department: London Consortium
Depositing User: ORBIT Editor
Date Deposited: 18 Jun 2015 14:02
Last Modified: 10 Aug 2015 09:18

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