The Consultant

Social influence is pervasive. Understanding mechanisms by which our own behavior is influenced can help us intentionally shape the behavior of others. In this discussion, we will consider various forms of social influence by creating an intervention designed to address a particular concern in one of many real world settings.
To inform your thinking on this topic, begin by reading “Harnessing the Science of Persuasion” (Cialdini, 2001), “Social Influence: Compliance and Conformity” (Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004), “Cognitive Consequences of Forced Compliance” (Festinger & Carlsmith, 1959), “Behavioral Study of Obedience” (Milgram, 1963), and “Attribution Versus Persuasion as a Means for Modifying Behavior” (Miller, Brickman, & Bolen, 1975).

Then, imagine yourself as a consultant in one of the following scenarios. You are responsible for developing a plan to modify behavior, which will be based on social psychological insight. Select one of the following options and design a program, supporting your answer with scholarly and peer-reviewed sources. Explain to the individual in the scenario, in layperson’s terms, relevant theory and research that addresses the social psychological variables involved. Summarize a clear intervention strategy, formulating advice regarding future behavior.

A business executive seeks assistance in creating a comprehensive plan to market a product. [You may choose the product.]

A lawyer is requesting insight regarding jury behavior in order to achieve more favorable trial outcomes.

A prominent member of the community is considering a run for political office and would like advice regarding successful campaign strategies.

A doctor is concerned about rising rates of illness due to personal behavior and wishes to provide appropriate counsel to patients in order to change behavior for the better. [You may specify the type of illness or behaviors, as necessary.]

A substance abuse counselor is alarmed by recent statistics on drug and alcohol use amongst younger and younger children and would like to design a targeted program to address this issue.

Other (as provided/approved by your instructor)

Your initial post should be 500-1000 words in length and must contain at minimum required course resources as applicable. Additional credible references are encouraged.


Miller, R. L., Brickman, P., & Bolen, D. (1975). Attribution versus persuasion as a means for modifying behavior . Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 31(3), 430-441.

Milgram, S. (1963). Behavioral study of obedience. The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 67(4), 371-378.

Cialdini, R. B., & Goldstein, N.J. (2004). Social influence: Compliance and conformity. Annual Review of Psychology, 55, 591-621.

Cialdini, R. B. (2001). Harnessing the science of persuasion. Harvard Business Review, 79(9), 72-81.

Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 1963, Vol. 67, No. 4, 371-378



Yale University

This article describes a procedure for the study of destructive obedience in the laboratory. It consists of ordering a naive S to administer increasingly more severe punishment to a victim in the context of a learning experiment. Punishment is administered by means of a shock generator with 30 graded switches ranging from Slight Shock to Danger: Severe Shock. The victim is a confederate of the E. The primary dependent variable is the maximum shock the S is willing to administer before he refuses to continue further. 26 Ss obeyed the experimental commands fully, and administered the highest shock on the generator. 14 Ss broke off the experiment at some point after the victim protested and refused to provide further answers. The procedure created extreme levels of nervous tension in some Ss. Profuse sweating, trembling, and stuttering were typical expressions of this emotional disturbance. One un- expected sign of tension—yet to be explained—was the regular occurrence of nervous laughter, which in some Ss developed into uncontrollable seizures. The variety of interesting behavioral dynamics observed in the experiment, the reality of the situation for the S, and the possibility of parametric varia- tion within the framework of the procedure, point to the fruitfulness of further study.

Obedience is as basic an element in the structure of social life as one can point to. Some system of authority is a requirement of all communal living, and it is only the man dwelling in isolation who is not forced to respond, through defiance or submission, to the commands of others. Obedience, as a determinant of behavior, is of particular relevance to our time. It has been reliably established that from 1933-45 millions of innocent persons were systematically slaugh- tered on command. Gas chambers were built, death camps were guarded, daily quotas of corpses were produced with the same ef- ficiency as the manufacture of appliances. These inhumane policies may have originated in the mind of a single person, but they could only be carried out on a massive scale if a very large number of persons obeyed orders.

Obedience is the psychological mechanism that links individual action to political pur- pose. It is the dispositional cement that binds men to systems of authority. Facts of recent history and observation in daily life suggest

1 This research was supported by a grant (NSF G-17916) from the National Science Foundation. Exploratory studies conducted in 1960 were sup- ported by a grant from the Higgins Fund at Yale University. The research assistance of Alan C. Elms and Jon Wayland is gratefully acknowledged.

2 Now at Harvard University.

that for many persons obedience may be a deeply ingrained behavior tendency, indeed, a prepotent impulse overriding training in ethics, sympathy, and moral conduct. C. P. Snow (1961) points to its importance when he writes:

When you think of the long and gloomy history of man, you will find more hideous crimes have been committed in the name of obedience than have ever been committed in the name of rebellion. If you doubt that, read William Shirer’s “Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.” The German Officer Corps were brought up in the most rigorous code of obedience . . . in the name of obedience they were party to, and assisted in, the most wicked large scale actions in the history of the world [p. 24].

While the particular form of obedience dealt with in the present study has its ante- cedents in these episodes, it must not be thought all obedience entails acts of aggres- sion against others. Obedience serves numer- ous productive functions. Indeed, the very life of society is predicated on its existence. Obedience may be ennobling and educative and refer to acts of charity and kindness, as well as to destruction.

General Procedure

A procedure was devised which seems useful as a tool for studying obedience (Milgram, 1961). It consists of ordering



a naive subject to administer electric shock to a victim. A simulated shock generator is used, with 30 clearly marked voltage levels that range from IS to 450 volts. The instru- ment bears verbal designations that range from Slight Shock to Danger: Severe Shock. The responses of the victim, who is a trained confederate of the experimenter, are stand- ardized. The orders to administer shocks are given to the naive subject in the context of a “learning experiment” ostensibly set up to study the effects of punishment on memory. As the experiment proceeds the naive subject is commanded to administer increasingly more intense shocks to the victim, even to the point of reaching the level marked Danger: Severe Shock. Internal resistances become stronger, and at a certain point the subject refuses to go on with the experi- ment. Behavior prior to this rupture is con- sidered “obedience,” in that the subject com- plies with the commands of the experimenter. The point of rupture is the act of disobedi- ence. A quantitative value is assigned to the subject’s performance based on the maximum intensity shock he is willing to administer before he refuses to participate further. Thus for any particular subject and for any par- ticular experimental condition the degree of obedience may be specified with a numerical value. The crux of the study is to systemati- cally vary the factors believed to alter the degree of obedience to the experimental commands.

The technique allows important variables to be manipulated at several points in the experiment. One may vary aspects of the source of command, content and form of com- mand, instrumentalities for its execution, target object, general social setting, etc. The problem, therefore, is not one of designing in- creasingly more numerous experimental con- ditions, but of selecting those that best illumi- nate the process of obedience from the socio- psychological standpoint.

Related Studies

The inquiry bears an important relation to philosophic analyses of obedience and author- ity (Arendt, 1958; Friedrich, 1958; Weber, 1947), an early experimental study of obedience by Frank (1944), studies in “au- thoritarianism” (Adorno, Frenkel-Brunswik,

Levinson, & Sanford, 1950; Rokeach, 1961), and a recent series of analytic and empirical studies in social power (Cartwright, 1959). It owes much to the long concern with suggestion in social psychology, both in its normal forms (e.g., Binet, 1900) and in its clinical manifestations (Charcot, 1881). But it derives, in the first instance, from direct observation of a social fact; the individual who is commanded by a legitimate authority ordinarily obeys. Obedience comes easily and often. It is a ubiquitous and indispensable feature of social life.

METHOD Subjects

The subjects were 40 males between the ages of 20 and 50, drawn from New Haven and the sur- rounding communities. Subjects were obtained by a newspaper advertisement and direct mail solicita- tion. Those who responded to the appeal believed they were to participate in a study of memory and learning at Yale University. A wide range of occupations is represented in the sample. Typical subjects were postal clerks, high school teachers, salesmen, engineers, and laborers. Subjects ranged in educational level from one who had not finished elementary school, to those who had doctorate and other professional degrees. They were paid $4.50 for their participation in the experiment. However, sub- jects were told that payment was simply for coming to the laboratory, and that the money was theirs no matter what happened after they arrived. Table 1 shows the proportion of age and occupational types assigned to the experimental condition.

Personnel and Locale The experiment was conducted on the grounds of

Yale University in the elegant interaction laboratory. (This detail is relevant to the perceived legitimacy of the experiment. In further variations, the experi-




Workers, skilled and unskilled

Sales, business, and white-collar


Percentage of total (Age)

20-29 years





30-39 years





40-50 years





Percentage of total

(Occupa- tions)




Note.—Total N = 40.


ment was dissociated from the university, with consequences for performance.) The role of experi- menter was played by a 31-year-old high school teacher of biology. His manner was impassive, and his appearance somewhat stern throughout the experiment. He was dressed in a gray technician’s coat. The victim was played by a 47-year-old accountant, trained for the role; he was of Irish- American stock, whom most observers found mild- mannered and likable.

Procedure One naive subject and one victim (an accomplice)

performed in each experiment. A pretext had to be devised that would justify the administration of electric shock by the naive subject. This was ef- fectively accomplished by the cover story. After a general introduction on the presumed relation be- tween punishment and learning, subjects were told:

But actually, we know very little about the effect of punishment on learning, because almost no truly scientific studies have been made of it in human beings.

For instance, we don’t know how much punish- ment is best for learning—and we don’t know how much difference it makes as to who is giving the punishment, whether an adult learns best from a younger or an older person than himself—or many things of that sort.

So in this study we are bringing together a number of adults of different occupations and ages. And we’re asking some of them to be teachers and some of them to be learners.

We want to find out just what effect different people have on each other as teachers and learn- ers, and also what effect punishment will have on learning in this situation.

Therefore, I’m going to ask one of you to be the teacher here tonight and the other one to be the learner.

Does either of you have a preference?

Subjects then drew slips of paper from a hat to determine who would be the teacher and who would be the learner in the experiment. The drawing was rigged so that the naive subject was always the teacher and the accomplice always the learner. (Both slips contained the word “Teacher.”) Immediately after the drawing, the teacher and learner were taken to an adjacent room and the learner was strapped into an “electric chair” apparatus.

The experimenter explained that the straps were to prevent excessive movement while the learner was being shocked. The effect was to make it im- possible for him to escape from the situation. An electrode was attached to the learner’s wrist, and electrode paste was applied “to avoid blisters and burns.” Subjects were told that the electrode was attached to the shock generator in the adjoining room.

In order to improve credibility the experimenter declared, in response to a question by the learner: “Although the shocks can be extremely painful, they cause no permanent tissue damage.”

Learning task. The lesson administered by the subject was a paired-associate learning task. The subject read a series of word pairs to the learner, and then read the first word of the pair along with four terms. The learner was to indicate which of the four terms had originally been paired with the first word. He communicated his answer by pressing one of four switches in front of him, which in turn lit up one of four numbered quadrants in an answer- box located atop the shock generator.

Shock generator. The instrument panel consists of 30 lever switches set in a horizontal line. Each switch is clearly labeled with a voltage designa- tion that ranges from IS to 450 volts. There is a 15-volt increment from one switch to the next going from left to right. In addition, the following verbal designations are clearly indicated for groups of four switches going from left to right: Slight Shock, Moderate Shock, Strong Shock, Very Strong Shock, Intense Shock, Extreme Intensity Shock, Danger: Severe Shock. (Two switches after this last designa- tion are simply marked XXX.)

Upon depressing a switch: a pilot light correspond- ing to each switch is illuminated in bright red; an electric buzzing is heard; an electric blue light, labeled “voltage energizer,” flashes; the dial on the voltage meter swings to the right; various relay clicks are sounded.

The upper left-hand corner of the generator is labeled Shock Generator, Type ZLB, Dyson Instru- ment Company, Waltham, Mass. Output IS Volts- 4SO Volts.

Details of the instrument were carefully handled to insure an appearance of authenticity. The panel was engraved by precision industrial engravers, and all components were of high quality. No subject in the experiment suspected that the instrument was merely a simulated shock generator.3

Sample shock. Each naive subject is given a sample shock on the shock generator, prior to be- ginning his run as teacher. This shock is always 45 volts, and is applied by pressing the third switch of the generator. The shock is applied to the wrist of the naive subject, and has its source in a 45-volt battery wired into the generator. This further convinces the subject of the authenticity of the generator.

Shock instructions. The subject is told to admin- ister a shock to the learner each time he gives a

8 A related technique, making use of a shock generator, was reported by Buss (1961) for the study of aggression in the laboratory. Despite the considerable similarity of technical detail in the experimental procedures, both investigators proceeded in ignorance of the other’s work. Milgram provided plans and photographs of his shock generator, experi- mental procedure, and first results in a report to the National Science Foundation in January 1961. This report received only limited circulation. Buss re- ported his procedure 6 months later, but to a wider audience. Subsequently, technical information and reports were exchanged. The present article was first received in the Editor’s office on December 27, 1961; it was resubmitted with deletions on July 27, 1962.


wrong response. Moreover—and this is the key command—the subject is instructed to “move one level higher on the shock generator each time the learner flashes a wrong answer.” He is also instructed to announce the voltage level before administering a shock. This serves to continually remind subjects of the increasing intensity of shocks administered to the learner.

Preliminary and regular run. Pretests revealed that the procedure of reading words and administer- ing shocks requires some practice before it can be handled smoothly. Therefore, immediately preceding the regular run, the teacher is given a preliminary series of 10 words to read to the learner. There are 3 neutral words in the. practice series (i.e., words that the learner answers correctly), so that shocks are administered for 7 of the words, with the maximum shock at 105 volts (moderate shock). Almost all subjects master the procedure by the time the preliminary run is over.

Subjects are then presented with a second list, and are told that the procedure is the same as for the first list; the experimenter adds, however:

When you get to the bottom of the list, repeat it over again, and continue giving shocks, until the learner has learned all the pairs correctly.

The experimenter instructs the subject to,

start from 15 volts and increase the shock level one step each time the learner gives a wrong answer.

Feedback from the victim. In all conditions the learner gives a predetermined set of responses to the word pair test, based on a schedule of approxi- mately three wrong answers to one correct answer. In the present experimental condition no vocal re- sponse or other sign of protest is heard from the learner until Shock Level 300 is reached. When the 300-volt shock is administered, the learner pounds on the wall of the room in which he is bound to the electric chair. The pounding can be heard by the subject. From this point on, the learner’s answers no longer appear on the four-way panel.

At this juncture, subjects ordinarily turn to the experimenter for guidance. The experimenter in- structs the subject to treat the absence of a response as a wrong answer, and to shock the subject accord- ing to the usual schedule. He advises the subjects to allow S-10 s«conds before considering no response as a wrong answer, and to increase the shock level one step each time the learner fails to respond cor- rectly. The learner’s pounding is repeated after the 315-volt shock is administered; afterwards he is not heard from, nor do his answers reappear on the four-way signal box.

Experimenter feedback. At various points in the experiment the subject may turn to the experimenter for advice on whether he should continue to admin- ister shocks. Or he may indicate that he does not wish to go on. It was important to standardize the experimenter’s responses to these inquiries and reactions.

If the subject indicated his unwillingness to go

on, the experimenter responded with a sequence of “prods,” using as many as necessary to bring the subject into line.

Prod 1 : Please continue, or Please go on. Prod 2: The experiment requires that you con-

tinue. Prod 3: It is absolutely essential that you con-

tinue. Prod 4: You have no other choice, you must

go on.

The prods were always made in sequence: Only if Prod 1 had been unsuccessful, could Prod 2 be used. If the subject refused to obey the experi- menter after Prod 4, the experiment was terminated. The experimenter’s tone of voice was at all times firm, but not impolite. The sequence was begun anew on each occasion that the subject balked or showed reluctance to follow orders.

Special prods. If the subject asked if the learner was liable to suffer permanent physical injury, the experimenter said:

Although the shocks may be painful, there is no permanent tissue damage, so please go on. [Followed by Prods 2, 3, and 4 if necessary.]

If the subject said that the learner did not want to go on, the experimenter replied:

Whether the learner likes it or not, you must go on until he has learned all the word pairs correctly. So please go on. [Followed by Prods 2, 3, and 4 if necessary.]

Dependent Measures The primary dependent measure for any subject

is the maximum shock he administers before he refuses to go any further, In principle this may vary from 0 (for a subject who refuses to administer even the first shock) to 30 (for a subject who administers the highest shock on the generator). A subject who breaks off the experiment at any point prior to administering the thirtieth shock level is termed a defiant subject. One who complies with experimental commands fully, and proceeds to ad- minister all shock levels commanded, is termed an obedient subject.

Further records. With few exceptions, experi- mental sessions were recorded on magnetic tape. Occasional photographs were taken through one-way mirrors. Notes were kept on any unusual behavior occurring during the course of the experiments. On occasion, additional observers were directed to write objective descriptions of the subjects’ behavior. The latency and duration of shocks were measured by accurate timing devices.

Interview and dehoax. Following the experiment, subjects were interviewed; open-ended questions, projective measures, and attitude scales were em- ployed. After the interview, procedures

‘taken to assure that the s’uoject would leave the RBoratory in a state of well being. A friendly reconciliation was arranged between thejubject and 5ie~vlctimj and an effort was made to^Feduce any tensions that arose as a result of the experiment.



Preliminary Notions

Before giving an account of the experi- mental results, it is instructive to consider how persons predict others will perform when commanded to administer powerful shocks to another person. Fourteen Yale seniors, all psychology majors, were provided with a detailed description of the experimental situa- tion. They were asked to reflect carefully on it, and to predict the behavior of 100 hypo- thetical subjects. More specifically, they were instructed to plot the distribution of obedi- ence of “100 Americans of diverse occupa- tions, and ranging in age from 20 to SO years,” who were placed in the experimental situation.

There was considerable agreement among the respondents on the expected behavior of hypothetical subjects. All respondents pre- dicted that only an insignificant minority would go through to the end of the shock series. (The estimates ranged from 0 to 3%; i.e., the most “pessimistic” member of the class predicted that of 100 persons, 3 would con- tinue through to the most potent shock avail- able on the shock generator—450 volts.) The class mean was 1.2%. The question was also posed informally to colleagues of the author, and the most general feeling was that few if any subjects would go beyond the designation Very Strong Shock.

Result of Experiment I

Subjects accept situation. With few excep- tions subjects were convinced of the reality of the experimental situation, that they were administering shocks to another person, and the most potent shocks were extremely painful. In the post-experimental interview subjects were asked: “How painful to the learner were the last few shocks that you administered to him?” Subjects were instructed to indicate their answers on a printed 14-point scale ranging from “Not at all painful” to “Extremely painful.” The modal response was 14 (Extremely painful) with the mean at 13.42.

Signs of extreme tension. Many subjects showed signs of nervousness in the experi- mental situation, and especially upon ad- ministering the more powerful shocks. In a

large number of cases the degree of tension reached extremes that are rarely seen in sociopsychological laboratory studies. Sub- jects were observed to sweat, tremble, stutter, bite their lips, groan, and dig their finger- nails into their flesh. These were character- istic rather than exceptional responses to the experiment.

One sign of tension was the regular occur- rence of nervous laughing fits. Fourteen of the 40 subjects showed definite signs of nervous laughter and smiling. The laughter seemed entirely out of place, even bizarre. Full-blown, uncontrollable seizures were ob- served for 3 subjects. On one occasion we observed a seizure so violently convulsive that it was necessary to call a halt to the experiment. The subject, a 46-year-old en- cyclopedia salesman, was seriously embar- rassed by his untoward and uncontrollable behavior. In the post-experimental interviews subjects took pains to point out that they were not sadistic types, and that the laughter did not mean they enjoyed shocking the victim.

Distribution of scores. It had been con- jectured that persons would not, in general, agree to administer shocks beyond the level designated as Very Strong Shock. The dis- tribution of maximum shocks for this experi- ment is shown in Table 2. The obtained dis- tribution of scores deviates radically from the prediction.

Upon command of the experimenter, each of the 40 subjects went beyond the expected breakoff point. No subject stopped prior to administering Shock Level 20. (At this level —300 volts—the victim kicks on the wall and no longer provides answers to the teacher’s multiple-choice questions.)

Of the 40 subjects, 5 refused to obey the experimental commands beyond the 300-voIt level. Four more subjects administered one further shock, and then refused to go on. Two broke off at the 330-volt level, and 1 each at 345, 360, and 375 volts. Thus a total of 14 subjects defied the experimenter. It is instructive to reprint their remarks at the point of defiance, as transcribed from the tape recordings:

[0124] I think he’s trying to communicate, he’s knocking. . . . Well it’s not fair to shock the guy . . . these are terrific volts. I don’t think this is



Verbal designation and voltage indication

Slight Shock IS 30 45 60

Moderate Shock 75 90

105 120

Strong Shock 135 150 165 180

Very Strong Shock 195 210 225 240

Intense Shock 255 270 285 300

Extreme Intensity Shock 315 330 345 360

Danger: Severe Shock 375 390 405 420

XXX 435 450

Number of subjects for whom this was maximum shock

0 0 0 0

0 0 0 0

0 0 0 0

0 0 0 0

0 0 0 5

4 2 1 1

1 0 0 0

0 26

very humane. . . . Oh, I can’t go on with this; no, this isn’t right. It’s a hell of an experiment. The guy is suffering in there. No, I don’t want to go on. This is crazy. [Subject refused to administer more shocks.]

[0123] He’s banging in there. I’m gonna chicken out. I’d like to continue, but I can’t do that to a man. . . . I’m sorry I can’t do that to a man. I’ll hurt his heart. You take your check. . . . No really, I couldn’t do it.

These subjects were frequently in a highly agitated and even angered state. Sometimes, verbal protest was at a minimum, and the subject simply got up from his chair in front of the shock generator, and indicated that he wished to leave the laboratory.

Of the 40 subjects, 26 obeyed the orders of the experimenter to the end, proceeding to punish the victim until they reached the most potent shock available on the shock generator. At that point, the experimenter called a halt to the session. (The maximum shock is labeled 450 volts, and is two steps beyond the designation: Danger: Severe Shock.) Although obedient subjects continued to administer shocks, they often did so under extreme stress. Some expressed reluctance to administer shocks beyond the 300-volt level, and displayed fears similar to those who defied the experimenter; yet they obeyed.

After the maximum shocks had been de- livered, and the experimenter called a halt to the proceedings, many obedient subjects heaved sighs of relief, mopped their brows, rubbed their fingers over their eyes, or nervously fumbled cigarettes. Some shook their heads, apparently in regret. Some sub- jects had remained calm throughout the experiment, and displayed only minimal signs of tension from beginning to end.


The experiment yielded two findings that were surprising. The first finding concerns the sheer strength of obedient tendencies manifested in this situation. Subjects have learned from childhood that it is a funda- mental breach of moral conduct to hurt an- other person against his will. Yet, 26 subjects abandon this tenet in following the instruc- tions of an authority who has no special powers to enforce his commands. To disobey would bring no material loss to the subject; no punishment would ensue. It is clear from the remarks and outward behavior of many participants that in punishing the victim they are often acting against their own values. Subjects often expressed deep disapproval of shocking a man in the face of his objections, and others denounced it as stupid and sense- less. Yet the majority complied with the experimental commands. This outcome was surprising from two perspectives: first, from the standpoint of predictions made in the questionnaire described earlier. (Here, how- ever, it is possible that the remoteness of the respondents from the actual situation, and the difficulty of conveying to them the con-


crete details of the experiment, could account for the serious underestimation of obedience.)

But the results were also unexpected to persons who observed the experiment in progress, through one-way mirrors. Observers often uttered expressions of disbelief upon seeing a subject administer more powerful shocks to the victim. These persons had a full acquaintance with the details of the situation, and yet systematically mated the amount of obedience that subjects would disglay.

Thr Mrnnd unanticipated effect was the extraordinary tension generated by the pro- cedures. One might suppose that a subject would simply break off or continue as his conscience dictated. Yet, this is very far from what happened. There were striking reac- tions of tension and emotional strain. One observer related:

I observed a mature and initially poised business- man enter the laboratory smiling and confident. Within 20 minutes he was reduced to a twitching, stuttering wreck, who was rapidly approaching a point of nervous collapse. He constantly pulled on his earlobe, and twisted his hands. At one point he pushed his fist into his forehead and muttered: “Oh God, let’s stop it.” And yet he continued to respond to every word of the experimenter, and obeyed to the end.

Any understanding of the phenomenon of obedience must rest on an analysis of the particular conditions in which it occurs. The following features of the experiment go some distance in explaining the high amount of obedience observed in the situation.

1. The experiment is sponsored by and takes place on the grounds of an institution of unimpeachable reputation, Yale Univer- sity. It may be reasonably presumed that the personnel are competent and reputable. The importance of this background authority is now being studied by conducting a series of experiments outside of New Haven, and without any visible ties to the university.

2. The experiment is, on the face of it, designed to attain a worthy purpose — ad- vancement of knowledge about learning and memory. Obedience occurs not as an end in itself, but as an instrumental element in a situation that the subject construes as sig- nificant, and meaningful. He may not be able to see its full significance, but he may properly assume that the experimenter does.

3. The subject perceives that the victim has voluntarily submitted to the authority system of the experimenter. He is not (at first) an unwilling captive impressed for in- voluntary service. He has taken the trouble to come to the laboratory presumably to aid the experimental research. That he later becomes an involuntary subject does not alter the fact that, initially, he consented to par- ticipate without qualification. Thus he has in some dgeree incurred an obligation toward the experimenter.

4. The subject, too, has entered the experi- ment voluntarily, and perceives himself under obligation to aid the experimenter. He has made a commitment, and to disrupt the experiment is a repudiation of this initial promise of aid.

5. Certain features of the procedure strengthen the subject’s sense of obligation to the experimenter, For one, he has been paid for coming to the laboratory. In part this is canceled out by the experimenter’s statement that:

Of course, as in all experiments, the money is yours simply for coming to the laboratory. From this point on, no matter what happens, the money is yours.4

6. From the subject’s standpoint, the fact that he is the teacher and the other man the learner is purely a chance consequence (it is determined by drawing lots) and he, the subject, ran the same risk as the other man in being assigned the role of learner. Since the assignment of positions in the experiment was achieved by fair means, the learner is deprived of any basis of complaint on this count. (A similar situation obtains in Army units, in which—in the absence of volunteers—a particularly dangerous mission may be assigned by drawing lots, and the unlucky soldier is expected to bear his mis- fortune with sportsmanship.)

7. There is, at best, ambiguity with regard to the prerogatives of a psychologist and the corresponding rights of his subject. There is a vagueness of expectation concerning what a psychologist may require of his subject, and when he is overstepping acceptable limits.

4 Forty-three subjects, undergraduates at Yale University, were run in the experiment without pay- ment. The results are very similar to those obtained with paid subjects.


Moreover, the experiment occurs in a closed setting, and thus provides no opportunity for the subject to remove these ambiguities by discussion with others. There are few standards that seem directly applicable to the situation, which is a novel one for most subjects.

8. The subjects are assured that the shocks administered to the subject are “painful but not dangerous.” Thus they assume that the discomfort caused the victim is momentary, while the scientific gains resulting from the experiment are enduring,

9. Through Shock Level 20 the victim continues to provide answers on the signal box. The subject may construe this as a sign that the victim is still willing to “play the game.” It is only after Shock Level 20 that the victim repudiates the rules com- pletely, refusing to answer further.

These features help to explain the high amount of obedience obtained in this experiment. Many of the arguments raised need not remain matters of speculation, but can be reduced to testable propostions to be confirmed or disproved by further experiments.”

The following features of the experiment concern the nature of the conflict which the subject faces.

10. The subject is placed in a position in which he must respond to the competing demands of two persons: the experimenter and the victim. The conflict must be resolved by meeting the demands of one or the other; satisfaction of the victim and the experimenter are mutually exclusive. Moreover, the resolution must take the form of a highly visible action, that of continu- ing to shock the victim or breaking off the experiment. Thus the subject is forced into a public conflict that does not permit any completely satisfactory solution.

11. While the demands of the experimenter carry the weight of scientific authority, the demands of the victim spring from his per- sonal experience of pain and suffering. The two claims need not be regarded as equally pressing and legitimate. The experimenter seeks an abstract scientific datum; the victim

5 A series of recently completed experiments employing the obedience paradigm is reported in Milgram (1964).

cries out for relief from physical suffering caused by the subject’s actions.

12. The experiment gives the subject little time for reflection. The conflict comes on rapidly. It is only minutes after the sub- ject has been seated before the shock gen- erator that the victim begins his protests. Moreover, the subject perceives that he has gone through but two-thirds of the shock levels at the time the subject’s first protests are heard. Thus he understands that the conflict will have a persistent aspect to it, and may well become more intense as in- creasingly more powerful shocks are required. The rapidity with which the conflict descends on the subject, and his realization that it is predictably recurrent may well be sources of tension to him.

13. At a more general level, the conflict stems from the opposition of two deeply ingrained behavior dispositions: first, the dis- position not to harm other people, and sec- ond, the tendency to obey those whom we perceive to be legitimate authorities.


D. J., & SANTORD, R. N. The authoritarian person- ality. New York: Harper, 1950.

ARENDT, H. What was authority? In C. J. Friedrich (Ed.), Authority. Cambridge: Harvard Univer. Press, 1958. Pp. 81-112.

BINET, A. La suggestibility. Paris: Schleicher, 1900. Buss, A. H. The psychology of aggression. New

York: Wiley, 1961. CARTWRIGHT, S. (Ed.) Studies in social power. Ann

Arbor: University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, 1959.

CHARCOT, J. M. Oeuvres completes. Paris: Bureaux du Progres Medical, 1881.

FRANK, J. D. Experimental studies of personal pressure and resistance. /. gen. Psychol, 1944, 30, 23-64.

FRIEDRICH, C. J. (Ed.) Authority. Cambridge: Harvard Univer. Press, 19S8.

MILGRAM, S. Dynamics of obedience. Washington: National Science Foundation, 25 January 1961. (Mimeo)

MILGRAM, S. Some conditions of obedience and disobedience to authority. Hum. Relat., 1964, in press.

ROKEACH, M. Authority, authoritarianism, and con- formity. In I. A. Berg & B. M. Bass (Eds.), Conformity and deviation. New York: Harper, 1961. Pp. 230-257.

SNOW, C. P. Either-or. Progressive, 1961 (Feb.), 24.

WEBER, M. The theory of social and economic organization. Oxford: Oxford Univer. Press, 1947.

(Received July 27, 1962)



Stanford University

WHAT happens to a person’s privateopinion if he is forced to do or saysomething contrary to that opin- ion? Only recently has there been, any experi- mental work related to this question. Two stud- ies reported by Janis and King (1954; 1956) clearly showed that, at least under some condi- tions, the private opinion changes so as to bring it into closer correspondence with the overt behavior the person was forced to perform. Specifically, they showed that if a person is forced to improvise a speech supporting a point of view with which he disagrees, his private opinion moves toward the position advocated in the speech. The observed opinion change is greater than for persons who only hear the speech or for persons who read a prepared speech with emphasis solely on elocution and manner of delivery. The authors of these two studies explain their results mainly in terms of mental rehearsal and thinking up new argu- ments. Inthisway, they propose, theperson who is forced to improvise a speech convinces himself. They present some evidence, which is not altogether conclusive, in support of this explanation. We will have more to say con- cerning this explanation in discussing the results of our experiment.

Kelrnan (1953) tried to pursue the matter further. He reasoned that if the person is induced to make an overt statement contrary to his private opinion by the offer of some reward, then the greater the reward offered, the greater should be the subsequent opinion change. His data, however, did not support this idea. He found, rather, that a large reward produced less subsequent opinion change than did a smaller reward. Actually, this finding by Kelman is consistent with the theory we will outline below but, for a number of reasons, is

1 The experiment reported here was done as part of a program of research supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation to the senior author. We wish to thank Leonard Hommel, Judson Mills, and Robert Tenvilliger for their help in designing and carrying out the experiment. We would also like to acknowledge the help of Ruth Smith and Marilyn M. Miller.

not conclusive. One of the major weaknesses of the data is that not all subjects in the experi- ment made an overt statement contrary to their private opinion in order to obtain the offered reward. What is more, as one might expect, the percentage of subjects who com- plied increased as the size of the offered reward increased. Thus, with self-selection of who did and who did not make the required overt statement and with varying percentages of subjects in the different conditions who did make the required statement, no interpreta- tion of the data can be unequivocal.

Recently, Festinger (1957) proposed a theory concerning cognitive dissonance from which come a number of derivations about opinion change following forced compliance. Since these derivations are stated in detail by Fest- inger (1957, Ch. 4), we will here give only a brief outline of the reasoning.

Let us consider a person who privately holds opinion “X” but has, as a result of pressure brought to bear on him, publicly stated that he believes “not X.”

1. This person has two cognitions which, psychologically, do not fit together: one of these is the knowledge that he believes “X,” the other the knowledge that he has publicly stated that he believes “not X.” If no factors other than his private opinion are considered, it would follow, at least in our culture, that if he believes “X” he would publicly state “X.” Hence, his cognition of his private belief is dissonant with his cognition concerning his actual public statement.

2. Similarly, the knowledge that he has said “not X” is consonant with (does fit together with) those cognitive elements corresponding to the reasons, pressures, promises of rewards and/or threats of punishment which induced him to say “not X.”

3. In evaluating the total magnitude of dissonance, one must take account of both dissonances and consonances. Let us think of the sum of all the dissonances involving some particular cognition as “D” and the sum of all the consonances as “C.” Then we might



think of the total magnitude of dissonance as being a function of “D” divided by “D” plus “C.”

Let us then see what can be said about the total magnitude of dissonance in a person created by the knowledge that he said “not X” and really believes “X.” With everything else held constant, this total magnitude of disso- nance would decrease as the number and importance of the pressures which induced him to say “not X” increased.

Thus, if the overt behavior was brought about by, say, offers of reward or threats of punishment, the magnitude of dissonance is maximal if these promised rewards or threat- ened punishments were just barely sufficient to induce the person to say “not X.” From this point on, as the promised rewards or threatened punishment become larger, the magnitude of dissonance becomes smaller.

4. One way in which the dissonance can be reduced is for the person to change his private opinion so as to bring it into correspondence with what he has said. One would conse- quently expect to observe such opinion change after a person has been forced or induced to say something contrary to his private opinion. Furthermore, since the pressure to reduce dissonance will be a function of the magnitude of the dissonance, the observed opinion change should be greatest when the pressure used to elicit the overt behavior is just sufficient to doit.

The present experiment was designed to test this derivation under controlled, labora- tory conditions. In the experiment we varied the amount of reward used to force persons to make a statement contrary to their private views. The prediction [from 3 and 4 above] is that the larger the reward given to the subject, the smaller will be the subsequent opinion change,


Seventy-one male students in the introduc- tory psychology course at Stanford University were used in the experiment. In this course, students are required to spend a certain num- ber of hours as subjects (Ss) in experiments. They choose among the available experiments by signing their names on a sheet posted on the bulletin board which states the nature of the experiment. The present experiment was listed

as a two-hour experiment dealing with ” Meas- ures of Performance.”

During the first week of the course, when the requirement of serving in experiments was announced and explained to the students, the instructor also told them about a study that the psychology department was conducting. He explained that, since they were required to serve in experiments, the department was con- ducting a study to evaluate these experiments in order to be able to improve them in the future. They were told that a sample of students would be interviewed after having served as 5s. They were urged to cooperate in these interviews by being completely frank and honest. The importance of this announce- ment will become clear shortly. It enabled us to measure the opinions of our 5s in a context not directly connected with our experiment and in which we could reasonably expect frank and honest expressions of opinion.

When the S arrived for the experiment on “Measures of Performance” he had to wait for a few minutes in the secretary’s office. The experimenter (E) then came in, introduced himself to the 5 and, together, they walked into the laboratory room where the E said:

This experiment usually takes a little over an hour but, of course, we had to schedule it for two hours. Since we have that extra time, the introductory psy- chology people asked if they could interview some of our subjects. [Offhand and conversationally.] Did they announce that in class? I gather that they’re interview- ing some people who have been In experiments. I don’t know much about it. Anyhow, they may want to inter- view you when you’re through here.

With no further introduction or explanation the S was shown the first task, which involved putting 12 spools onto a tray, emptying the tray, refilling it with spools, and so on. He was told to use one hand and to work at his own speed. He did this for one-half hour. The E then removed the tray and spools and placed in front of the S a board containing 48 square pegs. His task was to turn each peg a quarter turn clockwise, then another quarter turn, and so on. He was told again to use one hand and to work at his own speed. The 5 worked at this task for another half hour.

While the 5 was working on these tasks, the E sat, with a stop watch in his hand, busily making notations on a sheet of paper. He did so in order to make it convincing that this was


what the E was interested in and that these tasks, and how the S worked on them, was the total experiment. From our point of view the experiment had hardly started. The hour which the S spent working on the repetitive, monot- onous tasks was intended to provide, for each S uniformly, an experience about which he would have a somewhat negative opinion.

After the half hour on the second task was over, the E conspicuously set the stop watch back to zero, put it away, pushed his chair back, lit a cigarette, and said:

O.K. Well, that’s all we have in the experiment itself. I’d like to explain what this has been all about so you’ll have some idea of why you were doing this. [E pauses.] Well, the way the experiment is set up is this. There are actually two groups in the experiment. In one, the group you were in, we bring the subject in and give him essentially no introduction to the experi- ment. That is, all we tell him is what he needs to know in order to do the tasks, and he has no idea of what the experiment is all about, or what it’s going to be like, or anything like that. But in the other group, we have a student that we’ve hired that works for us regularly, and what I do is take him into the next room where the subject is waiting—the same room you were waiting in before—and I introduce him as if he had just finished being a subject in the experiment. That is, I say: “This is so-and-so, who’s just finished the experiment, and I’ve asked him to tell you a little of what it’s about before you start.” The fellow who works for us then, in conversation with the next subject, makes these points: [The E then produced a sheet headed “For Group B” which had written on it: It was very enjoy- able, I had a lot of fun, I enjoyed myself, it was very interesting, it was intriguing, it was exciting. The E showed this to the S and then proceeded with his false explanation of the purpose of the experiment.] Now, of course, we have this student do this, because if the experimenter does it, it doesn’t look as realistic, and what we’re interested in doing is comparing how these two groups do on the experiment—the one with this previous expectation about the experiment, and the other, like yourself, with essentially none.

Up to this point the procedure was identical for 5s in all conditions. From this point on they diverged somewhat. Three conditions were run, Control, One Dollar, and Twenty Dollars, as follows:

Control Condition

The E continued:

Is that fairly clear? [Pause.] Look, that fellow [looks at watch] I was telling you about from the introductory psychology class said he would get here a couple of minutes from now. Would you mind waiting to see if he wants to talk to you? Fine. Why don’t we go into

the other room to wait? [The E left the 5 in the secre- tary’s office for four minutes. He then returned and said:] O.K. Let’s check and see if he does want to talk to you.

One and Twenty Dollar Conditions

The E continued: Is that fairly clear how it is set up and what we’re

trying to do? [Pause.] Now, I also have a sort of strange thing to ask you. The thing is this. [Long pause, some confusion and uncertainty in the following, with a de- gree of embarrassment on the part of the E. The manner of the E contrasted strongly with the preceding unhesitant and assured false explanation of the experi- ment. The point was to make it seem to the S that this was the first time the E had done this and that he felt unsure of himself.] The fellow who normally does this for us couldn’t do it today—he just phoned in, and something or other came up for him—so we’ve been looking around for someone that we could hire to do it for us. You see, we’ve got another subject waiting [looks at watch] who is supposed to be in that other condition. Now Professor -, who is in charge of this experiment, suggested that perhaps we could take a chance on your doing it for us. I’ll tell you what we had in mind: the thing is, if you could do it for us now, then of course you would know how to do it, and if something like this should ever come up again, that is, the regular fellow couldn’t make it, and we had a sub- ject scheduled, it would be very reassuring to us to know that we had somebody else we could call on who knew how to do it. So, if you would be willing to do this for us, we’d like to hire you to do it now and then be on call in the future, if something like this should ever happen again. We can pay you a dollar (twenty dollars) for doing this for us, that is, for doing it now and then being on call. Do you think you could do that for us?

If the 5 hesitated, the E said things like, “It will only take a few minutes,” “The regular person is pretty reliable; this is the first time he has missed,” or “If we needed you we could phone you a day or two in advance; if you couldn’t make it, of course, we wouldn’t expect you to come.” After the S agreed to do it, the E gave him the previously mentioned sheet of paper headed “For Group B” and asked him to read it through again. The E then paid the S one dollar (twenty dollars), made out a hand-written receipt form, and asked the 5 to sign it. He then said:

O.K., the way we’ll do it is this. As I said, the next subject should be here by now. I think the next one is a girl. I’ll take you into the next room and introduce you to her, saying that you’ve just finished the experi- ment and that we’ve asked you to tell her a little about it. And what we want you to do is just sit down and get into a conversation with her and try to get


across the points on that sheet of paper. I’ll leave you alone and come back after a couple of minutes. O.K.?

The E then took the S into the secretary’s office where he had previously waited and where the next S was waiting. (The secretary had left the office.) He introduced the girl and the S to one another saying that the S had just finished the experiment and would tell her something about it. He then left saying he would return in a couple of minutes. The girl, an undergraduate hired for this role, said little until the S made some positive remarks about the experiment and then said that she was surprised because a friend of hers had taken the experiment the week before and had told her that it was boring and that she ought to try to get out of it. Most 5s responded by saying something like “Oh, no, it’s really very interesting. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.” The girl, after this listened quietly, accepting and agreeing to everything the S told her. The discussion between the J? and the girl was re- corded on a hidden tape recorder.

After two minutes the E returned, asked the girl to go into the experimental room, thanked the 5 for talking to the girl, wrote down his phone number to continue the fiction that we might call on him again in the future and then said: “Look, could we check and see if that fellow from introductory psychology wants to talk to you?”

From this point on, the procedure for all three conditions was once more identical. As the E and the S started to walk to the office where the interviewer was, the E said: “Thanks very much for working on those tasks for us. I hope you did enjoy it. Most of our subjects tell us afterward that they found it quite interesting. You get a chance to see how you react to the tasks and so forth.” This short persuasive communication was made in all conditions in exactly the same way. The reason for doing it, theoretically, was to make it easier for anyone who wanted to persuade him- self that the tasks had been, indeed, enjoyable.

When they arrived at the interviewer’s office, the E asked the interviewer whether or not he wanted to talk to the S. The interviewer said yes, the E shook hands with the S, said good-bye, and left. The interviewer, of course, was always kept in complete ignorance of which condition the S was in. The interview

consisted of four questions, on each of which the 5 was first encouraged to talk about the matter and was then asked to rate his opinion or reaction on an 11-point scale. The questions are as follows:

1. Were the tasks interesting and enjoyable? In what way? In what way were they not? Would you rate how you feel about them on a scale from — S to +5 where — 5 means they were extremely dull and boring, +5 means they were extremely interesting and enjoyable, and zero means they were neutral, neither interesting nor uninteresting.

2. Did the experiment give you an opportunity to learn about your own ability to perform these tasks? In what way? In what way not? Would you rate how you feel about this on a scale from 0 to 10 where 0 means you learned nothing and 10 means you learned a great deal.

3. From what you know about the experiment and the tasks involved in it, would you say the experiment was measuring anything important? That is, do you think the results may have scientific value? In what way? In what way not? Would you rate your opinion on this matter on a scale from 0 to 10 where 0 means the results have no scientific value or importance and 10 means they have a great deal of value and im- portance.

4. Would you have any desire to participate in another similar experiment? Why? Why not? Would you rate your desire to participate in a similar experi- ment again on a scale from — S to +5, where — S means you would definitely dislike to participate, +5 means you would definitely like to participate, and 0 means you have no particular feeling about it one way or the other.

As may be seen, the questions varied in how directly relevant they were to what the 5 had told the girl. This point will be discussed further in connection with the results.

At the close of the interview the 5 was asked what he thought the experiment was about and, following this, was asked directly whether or not he was suspicious of anything and, if so, what he was suspicious of. When the interview was over, the interviewer brought the S back to the experimental room where the E was waiting together with the girl who had posed as the waiting £. (In the control condition, of course, the girl was not there.) The true pur- pose of the experiment was then explained to the 5 in detail, and the reasons for each of the various steps in the experiment were explained carefully in relation to the true purpose. All experimental Sk in both One Dollar and Twen- ty Dollar conditions were asked, after this explanation, to return the money they had


been given. All Ss, without exception, were quite willing to return the money.

The data from 11 of the 71 Ss in the experi- ment had to be discarded for the following reasons:

1. Five 5s (three in the One Dollar and two in the Twenty Dollar condition) indicated in the interview that they were suspicious about having been paid to tell the girl the experiment was fun and suspected that that was the real purpose of the experiment,

2. Two 5s (both in the One Dollar condition) told the girl that they had been hired, that the experiment was really boring but they were supposed to say it was fun.

3. Three 5s (one in the One Dollar and two in the Twenty Dollar condition) refused to take the money and refused to be hired.

4. One S (in the One Dollar condition), immediately after having talked to the girl, demanded her phone number saying he would call her and explain things, and also told the E he wanted to wait until she was finished so he could tell her about it.

These 11 5s were, of course, run through the total experiment anyhow and the experiment was explained to them afterwards. Their data, however, are not included in the analysis.

Summary of Design

There remain, for analysis, 20 5s in each of the three conditions. Let us review these briefly: 1. Control condition. These 5s were treated identically in all respects to the 5s in the experimental conditions, except that they were never asked to, and never did, tell the waiting girl that the experimental tasks were enjoyable and lots of fun. 2. One Dollar condition. These 5s were hired for one dollar to tell a waiting 5 that tasks, which were really rather dull and boring, were interesting, en- joyable, and lots of fun, 3. Twenty Dollar cottdi- tion. These 5s were hired for twenty dollars to do the same thing.


The major results of the experiment are summarized in Table 1 which lists, separately for each of the three experimental conditions, the average rating which the 5s gave at the end of each question on the interview. We will discuss each of the questions on the interview separately, because they were intended to measure different things. One other point be- fore we proceed to examine the data. In all the comparisons, the Control condition should be



Question on Interview

How enjoyable tasks were (rated from -5 to +5)

How much they learned (rated from 0 to 10)

Scientific importance (rated from 0 to 10)

Participate in similar exp. (rated from —5 to +5)

Experimental Condition

Control (,V = 20)





One Dollar

(N = 20)

+ 1.35



+ 1.20

Twenty Dollars

(N = 20)





regarded as a baseline from which to evaluate the results in the other two conditions. The Control condition gives us, essentially, the reactions of 5s to the tasks and their opinions about the experiment as falsely explained to them, without the experimental introduction of dissonance. The data from the other condi- tions may be viewed, in a sense, as changes from this baseline.

How Enjoyable the Tasks Were

The average ratings on this question, pre- sented in the first row of figures in Table 1, are the results most important to the experi- ment. These results are the ones most directly relevant to the specific dissonance which was experimentally created. It will be recalled that the tasks were purposely arranged to be rather boring and monotonous. And, indeed, in the Control condition the average rating was —.45, somewhat on the negative side of the neutral point.

In the other two conditions, however, the 5s told someone that these tasks were interest- ing and enjoyable. The resulting dissonance could, of course, most directly be reduced by persuading themselves that the tasks were, indeed, interesting and enjoyable. In the One Dollar condition, since the magnitude of dissonance was high, the pressure to reduce this dissonance would also be high. In this condition, the average rating was +1.35, considerably on the positive side and signifi- cantly different from the Control condition at the .02 level2 (t = 2,48).

2 All statistical tests referred to in this paper are two-tailed.


In the Twenty Dollar condition, where less dissonance was created experimentally because of the greater importance of the consonant relations, there is correspondingly less evidence of dissonance reduction. The average rating in this condition is only —.05, slightly and not significantly higher than the Control condition. The difference between the One Dollar and Twenty Dollar conditions is significant at the .03 level (t = 2,22). In short, when an S was induced, by offer of reward, to say something contrary to his private opinion, this private opinion tended to change so as to correspond more closely with what he had said. The greater the reward offered (beyond what was necessary to elicit the behavior) the smaller was the effect.

Desire to Participate in a Similar Experiment

The results from this question are shown in the last row of Table 1. This question is less directly related to the dissonance that was experimentally created for the 5s. Certainly, the more interesting and enjoyable they felt the tasks were, the greater would be their de- sire to participate in a similar experiment. But other factors would enter also. Hence, one would expect the results on this question to be very similar to the results on “how enjoy- able the tasks were” but weaker. Actually, the result, as may be seen in the table, are in exactly the same direction, and the magnitude of the mean differences is fully as large as on the first question. The variability is greater, however, and the differences do not yield high levels of statistical significance. The difference between the One Dollar condition (+1.20) and the Control condition (— .62) is significant at the .08 level (t = 1.78). The difference between the One Dollar condition and the Twenty Dollar condition (—.25) reaches only the .15 level of significance (t = 1.46).

The Scientific Importance of the Experiment

This question was included because there was a chance that differences might emerge. There are, after all, other ways in which the experimentally created dissonance could be reduced. For example, one way would be for the S to magnify for himself the value of the reward he obtained. This, however, was un-

likely in this experiment because money was used for the reward and it is undoubtedly difficult to convince oneself that one dollar is more than it really is. There is another pos- sible way, however. The 5s were given a very good reason, in addition to being paid, for saying what they did to the waiting girl. The 5s were told it was necessary for the experi- ment. The dissonance could, consequently, be reduced by magnifying the importance of this cognition. The more scientifically important they considered the experiment to be, the less was the total magnitude of dissonance. It is possible, then, that the results on this ques- tion, shown in the third row of figures in Table 1, might reflect dissonance reduction.

The results are weakly in line with what one would expect if the dissonance were somewhat reduced in this manner. The One Dollar condi- tion is higher than the other two. The differ- ence between the One and Twenty Dollar conditions reaches the .08 level of significance on a two-tailed test (t = 1.79). The difference between the One Dollar and Control conditions is not impressive at all (t = 1.21). The result that the Twenty Dollar condition is actually lower than the Control condition is un- doubtedly a matter of chance (t = 0.58).

How Much They Learned From the Experiment

The results on this question are shown in the second row of figures in Table 1. The question was included because, as far as we could see, it had nothing to do with the dissonance that was experimentally created and could not be used for dissonance reduction. One would then expect no differences at all among the three conditions. We felt it was important to show that the effect was not a completely general one but was specific to the content of the dis- sonance which was created. As can be readily seen in Table 1, there are only negligible differ- ences among conditions. The highest t value for any of these differences is only 0.48.


We mentioned in the introduction that Janis and King (1954; 1956) in explaining their findings, proposed an explanation in terms of the self-convincing effect of mental rehearsal


and thinking up new arguments by the person who had to improvise a speech. Kelman (1953), in the previously mentioned study, in at- tempting to explain the unexpected finding that the persons who complied in the moderate reward condition changed their opinion more than in the high reward condition, also pro- posed the same kind of explanation. If the results of our experiment are to be taken as strong corroboration of the theory of cogni- tive dissonance, this possible alternative explanation must be dealt with.

Specifically, as applied to our results, this alternative explanation would maintain that perhaps, for some reason, the 5s in the One Dollar condition worked harder at telling the waiting girl that the tasks were fun and en- joyable. That is, in the One Dollar condition they may have rehearsed it more mentally, thought up more ways of saying it, may have said it more convincingly, and so on. Why this might have been the case is, of course, not immediately apparent. One might expect that, in the Twenty Dollar condition, having been paid more, they would try to do a better job of it than in the One Dollar condition. But nevertheless, the possibility exists that the 5s in the One Dollar condition may have impro- vised more.

Because of the desirability of investigating this possible alternative explanation, we recorded on a tape recorder the conversation between each S and the girl. These recordings were transcribed and then rated, by two independent raters, on five dimensions. The ratings were, of course done in ignorance of which condition each S was in, The relia- bilities of these ratings, that is, the correlations between the two independent raters, ranged from .61 to .88, with an average reliability of .71. The five ratings were:

1. The content of what the 5 said before the girl made the remark that her friend told her it was boring. The stronger the S’s positive statements about the tasks, and the more ways in which he said they were interesting and enjoyable, the higher the rating.

2. The content of what the S said after the girl made the above-mentioned remark. This was rated in the same way as for the content before the remark.

3. A similar rating of the over-all content of what the S said.

4. A rating of how persuasive and convincing the S was in what he said and the way in which he said it.

5. A rating of the amount of time in the dis- cussion that the 5 spent discussing the tasks as opposed to going off into irrelevant things.

The mean ratings for the One Dollar and Twenty Dollar conditions, averaging the rat- ings of the two independent raters, are pre- sented in Table 2. It is clear from examing the table that, in all cases, the Twenty Dollar condition is slightly higher. The differences are small, however, and only on the rating of “amount of time” does the difference between the two conditions even approach significance. We are certainly justified in concluding that the Ss in the One Dollar condition did not improvise more nor act more convincingly. Hence, the alternative explanation discussed above cannot account for the findings.


Recently, Festinger (1957) has proposed a theory concerning cognitive dissonance. Two derivations from this theory are tested here. These are:

1. If a person is induced to do or say some- thing which is contrary to his private opinion, there will be a tendency for him to change his opinion so as to bring it into correspondence with what he has done or said.

2. The larger the pressure used to elicit the



Dimension Rated

Content before remark by girl (rated from 0 to 5)

Content after remark by girl (rated from 0 to 5)

Over-all content (rated from 0 to 5)

Persuasiveness and conviction (rated from 0 to 10)

Time spent on topic (rated from 0 to 10)


One Dollar






Twenty Dollars






Value o f /







overt behavior (beyond the minimum needed to elicit it) the weaker will be the above- mentioned tendency.

A laboratory experiment was designed to test these derivations. Subjects were subjected to a boring experience and then paid to tell someone that the experience had been interest- ing and enjoyable. The amount of money paid the subject was varied. The private opinions of the subjects concerning the experiences were then determined.

The results strongly corroborate the theory that was tested.


FESTINGER, L. A theory of cognitive d-issonattce. Evans- ton, 111: Row Peterson, 19S7.

JANIS, I. L., & KING, B. T. The influence of role-playing on opinion change. /. dbnorm. sac. Psychol., 1954, 49, 211-218.

KELITAN, H. Attitude change as a function of response restriction. Hum. Relal., 1953, 6, 185-214.

KING, B. T., & JANIS, I. L. Comparison of the effective- ness of improvised versus non-improvised role- playing in producing opinion changes. Hum. Relat., 1956, 9, 177-186.

Received November 18, 1957.

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