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The Milgram Experiment in Business


I believe a concept in psychology that I will remember is the Milgram experiment. This experiment fascinated me and also has great relevance to my career aspirations. The experiment showed that a large percentage of people would be obedient to an authority figure even if they were asked to do tasks against their moral values. The results, that 65% of participants administered lethal shocks, were surprising. The results help explain why some horrific events in human history occurred, but also offer valuable information for business leaders.
I desire to have a leadership position in business one day and I think the Milgram experiment offers an important lesson for me. As a leader you can have a great deal of power, but you want to be careful to not completely control your employees. In business, challenging ideas is important in order to find the best solution. If you are a manager operating in a very tense culture you could exert too much authority onto your employees and essentially command them what to do. If you were to be over authoritative you would not only be micromanaging, but your employees would not be very efficient at problem solving. I would want the other 35% of participants in the study that will say no when they think it is appropriate to say no.

For information on the milgram study visit:

Reflections on the Benefits of Being a Social Animal

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Among the emerging concepts that I have found most interesting and, at times, challenging during the course of my PSY 1001 experience is the idea that our position as social creatures is indeed double-edged. As covered in last week's discussion, our pronounced tendency towards sociability (at least when compared with a number of other creatures) has both benefits and drawbacks. Social organization increases chances of survival, as organisms (in this case, people) can provide assistance to each other and can engage in a division of labor which allows for specialization and thus allows specific individuals to hone higher levels of skill in specific areas.


While humans indeed have a range of sociability, as we have discovered both through personal experience and the study of personality psychology, as a species we tend to fall towards the social end of the spectrum. We are thus social animals. Compared to say, reptiles or certain kinds of fishes, all but the most reclusive humans show a need or desire to be with members of their own species in varying degrees. Yet there is indeed variation within the human race. While some people prefer to live with others in the midst of a teeming city, still others choose a life of relative isolation and live in the wilderness with few contacts.

This built-in dependence on associating with others has both its benefits, as described above, and its faults. We have discussed the pitfalls of conformity and obedience, in terms of behavior that ranges from the silly (following certain fashion trends that in restrospect are aesthetically appallingl) to the truly horrifying (the massive organized violence - from lynch mobs to the GULAG to death camps - in the twentieth century). As social creatures, we have the capacity, when making numerous decisions as members of a group of when led by a powerful and charismatic leader, to exhibit cruelty upon others of our kind.

Yet for all its possible evils, our social nature, combined with our ability to use tools and think abstractly, is what has allowed us to develop from hunter-gatherers to people who use technology and social engineering to alter our world. Were humans more isolationist in nature, it is unlikely the the social bonds necessary to build cities or form governments could ever have come into being. Indeed, it is the social nature of humans, augmented by our ability to communicate in a remarkably detailed manner, that has allowed for the division of labor that allows some of us to engage in survival activities (agriculture or medicine for example) while others can devote their working lives to quality of life activities (art and music among others). Despite the violence and stupidity that social pressures can lead to, without our need for interacting with each other, we would never have crossed the oceans or erected great cities or left our own planet. We are social creatures, for worse, but mostly for better.

Our Belief Live On -- Despite The Evidence

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220px-Notintoyouposter.jpgAs this is my last blog, I'd like to write something interesting. I watched a movie named "He's just not that into you" several days before, and it was interesting because I found some signs of what is called belief perseverance. I think I will keep belief perseverance in mind for a long time because it is easy to fell into its trap. Belief perseverance is the tendency to stick to our initial belief even when evidence contradicts them. (Lilienfild 9) Here's case. Let see the beginning of the movie.

All girls who suffer from heartbreaking in the movie are not willing to accept the facts of "he's not that into you". They are trying to seek out explanations, such as "he doesn't have time", "he lost my number" or " he is too busy", to support their beliefs even when evidences do contradict them. It is so common that lots of my friends have gone through similar situations.

Also, in this video, even after all the facts were explained to Winston, and after he appeared to agree that the facts were right, he still held doubts that President Obama was born in this country. This video is a good evidence of belief perseverance.

So, what is the causation of it? In this article, Craig A. Anderson thought that causal thinking was an important determination of belief perseverance. From prior studies, some conditions were designed to reduce or prevent causal thinking. As expected, inhibiting causal thinking can reduce the amount of perseverance obtained, whereas the replication conditions yielded considerable perseverance. It was an evidence of Craig's hypothesis.

I will remember belief perseverance in my daily life and always consider opposite to keep myself away from it.

Classical and Operant Conditioning

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In five years, psychology will be of my past and I will have moved on to different classes, possibly have graduated, and most likely be starting graduate school. If anything sticks with me throughout that time it will most likely be the concepts of classical and operant conditioning. Classical and operant conditioning are very relevant to other concepts in life due to the fact that they can help train yourself to do certain activities or behaviors. For example, when studying, you can use positive reinforcement using rewards to train yourself to be able to study longer and harder. Also, it sticks with me because it is relevant to situations like phobias. I have a great fear of roller coasters, but due to understanding conditioning I now understand why I am so afraid of them, and hopefully I can condition myself to not be afraid of them. Also, combining the two says a lot about how children learn and grow, and so if I'm babysitting or even have my own child, I now know which are the most effective ways that babies learn develop their behaviors.

Psychology was a very interesting course, and I believe that a lot of it will stick with me throughout the rest of my college career and through other life situations. I found Classical and Operant conditioning to be very interesting, especially when combined, and I feel that they are very easily applied to relevant life situations.

Behaviorism and Me

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circusmice.jpg I think, five years from now, I will have pets of my own, and they will be very well-educated thanks to operant conditioning techniques. I definitely was a lot more fascinated by behaviorism as presented in this course than I've ever been before. I was even inspired to tell my mother about my plans to bring mice into the house and train them to be circus performers, but for some reason she was not supportive.
I used to think behaviorism grossly oversimplifies psychology (there's a lot more to dogs than the drooling-when-they-hear-the-tone phenomenon). Now I think that even though conditioning isn't the whole story, it taps into really basic concepts of learning and helps us understand our roots as members of the animal kingdom (since conditioning works quite well on humans, too!)

Applications of conditioning in humans range all over the map, from clicker-training small children to tolerate their medical nasal spray... helping adults recover from drug addictions (like we saw in the video in lecture).

Behaviorism can also be used in advertising that works consumers into a holiday-shopping frenzy, negative political ads that manipulate people into feeling an irrational sense of fear and unease when a candidate's name is mentioned, and wartime propaganda.

Knowledge of classical and operant conditioning can hopefully empower citizens to educate themselves and others more effectively, but to also realize when they themselves are being subjected to conditioning so that they can also employ more conscious, critical processes of learning.

Damaging Obedience

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Before taking this class, I was unaware of the Milgram experiment. And yet, I think it is incredible that prior to the testing, the psychology faculty at Yale predicted that less than 1% of individuals would continue to shock the "learner" despite their repeating screams of pain. However, Milgram proved them wrong. What he found was that a large percentage of participants continued to shock - approximately 62% followed his orders with complete compliance.


Secondly, we can see how science (or the scientific method) is not only beneficial, but crucial for innovation. It wasn't until Milgram questioned the power of conformity in humans. What if he would have simply gone along with the faculty's original thoughts? As we recently learned, conformity in humans is very evident. Milgram himself could have easily conformed to match the view of the faculty, but he went out on a limb and tried something new. And in doing so, unraveled a critical part for understanding destructive obedience.

I believe this experiment shows us relatively how little we know about human psychology. Yes - we are learning and developing our knowledge, but we must never stop questioning "why." Even if it is blatantly obvious. Just like in this experiment, one would assume that people would For better or worse, the results showed us that humans can do cruel things. I will remember this experiment because it exemplifies the frightening power of persuasion.

Cognitive Biases in Everyday Life

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cognitive hazard.jpg
We learned about cognitive biases early in the year, and since then, I have found myself applying the concepts to occurrences in everyday life. This article gives a good summary of common cognitive biases and some examples. Previous to this course, I wasn't as aware of how common these false "beliefs" appear in my life. When reading articles or listening to the news, I definitely second guess the information more than I use to. I pay attention to evidence that is used and what the information is being referenced from because I now know just how important that knowledge can be. I will probably always remember at least the basic ideas of these biases for the rest of my life because they can be applied to so many things. There will always be stories and new findings presented to me through articles, television and other people. Through the psychology 1001 course, I have now obtained better information and a strategy that can be used to decipher what is actually valid in the information given and whether or not I should completely believe everything I am hearing.

One great example of a situation where I try to keep the cognitive biases in mind is pop culture magazine. Reading a magazine such as "People," I frequently come across claims or studies that seem strange. After reading an article, I am often reminded of the confirmation and other similar biases. The evidence that is given for such claims often doesn't include finding or results that go against the claim. And, through this course, I have learned the correct way to find the important results of the articles found in such magazines.

This video has a song that can be used as a fun way to remember the cognitive biases and what each means.

Facial Feedback

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This semester in Psychology, we have learned about countless different theories, some of which have stuck with me, and some of which haven't. Five years from now, I think there is one theory in particular that I will remember. This theory is the facial feedback hypothesis, just because of the experiment we did earlier this year.
One of the first experiments we did this year was the cartoon study. I didn't think much of it; in fact I thought it was pretty dumb when I had to hold a pencil in my mouth. I had no idea why I was being forced to shove a pencil in my mouth and hold it together with my teeth, and how it had anything to do with humor. The following image shows a demonstration of this exercise.
When I arrived at my discussion section, we were told to share our results within our teams. As we discussed our scores, it was determined that our facial expression affected how funny we thought the cartoons were. According to the facial feedback hypothesis, the blood vessels in our face feed back temperature information in the brain, which affects our emotions.
I think in five years I will remember this theory because of how I felt when I first figured it out. First I was overwhelmed with surprise, then shock, then genuine embarrassment that I didn't realize it myself. It was one of the coolest things I have ever experienced, and gave me true insight into what psychology really is.
I also think that this theory will stick with me because of the thoughts I have had regarding the future. Will smiling more make me a happier person? Allison Nelson addresses this in her article, and this is definitely something that I will continue to think about even when the semester is over. Also, the following video shows some of the funny faces that come to mind when thinking of facial expressions. Will these have an impact on how I feel, or is this just a theory?

Classical Conditioning

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The psychological concept that I will remember in five years is classical conditioning, also known as Pavlovian conditioning. It was discovered by a Russian scientist by the name of Ian Pavlov, whose primary research was on digestion in dogs. However, he discovered that dogs began salivating more when there was meat powder present. This also did not only happen when there was just meat powder present, it happened when the stimuli presented before the meat powder was present as well.

Pavlov determined his observation by first presenting neutral stimuli and recording the salivation of the dogs. He then paired the stimulus with the meat powder and recorded the salivation of the dogs. Finally, he presented only the stimulus to the dogs and noted that the dogs salivated more to the stimulus than before it was paired with the meat powder.


The reason I will remember this concept is because this is an extremely interesting to me, especially in the area of advertising. I find it fascinating that advertisers are able to subtly influence the mind of consumers by high-order classical conditioning, which is to develop a conditioned response to a conditioned stimulus by virtue of its association with another conditioned stimulus. This interesting concept will definitely not be forgotten anytime soon and I will try to find out as much as i can about the topic.

In the above commercial, Axe Deodorant is associated with hot women, which is associated with pleasure. The advertisers are using high order conditioning to condition consumers to buy Axe Deodorant spray.

Other types of conditioning can be found in this article.

Five years from now

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The concept from this Psychology course that I will remember the most is the debate about Nature vs. Nurture. It seems like this topic is consistently brought up in the textbook and relates to so many psychology concepts. I can't understand how some scientists believe that only nature or only how we're nurtured shapes our individual identities. It's clear that both play significant roles. However, one of the most controversial issues around this debate is using the "nurture" side as an excuse for criminal acts or other unacceptable behavior. I believe that even if a person has a legitimate argument that points the finger at their environment then that person still should be punished or removed from society.
With that said, I believe that nature has more influence in people than nurture. How else can you explain major differences between siblings or parents and children? I have sister who is 2 years older than me and we obviously had the same upbringing, but our personalities and general outlook on life are drastically different. She has always been a little reserved and could easily be embarrassed by trivial things. I on the other hand have always been loud and never really cared about the opinions of others.
I know that when I decide to find someone I could spend my life with she better have some pretty impeccable genetics. In fact, this may sound superficial, but I am extremely judgmental when it comes to women. I pick up on all the little things in their appearance and personality and that like and dislike.

Split-Brain Studies

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I had already been exposed to most of the topics discussed in this psychology course in my high-school class; though in much less depth. Because of this, the most interesting and likely the most memorable topic discussed in this class was one that I had no previous exposure to, split-brain studies.


Split-brain studies are carried out on patients with an extreme form of epilepsy. To combat severe seizures, patients have the corpus callosum (neuron fibers connecting their right and left hemispheres of their brains) severed. The results puts an end to the debilitating seizures and gave researches the unique opportunity to study the different functions of each hemisphere of the brain. What I found particularly interesting was the role of speech comprehension and the "little voice in our head."

To study the effects, scientists set up experiments that asked split-brain patients to recognize images in their left field of vision. The images were sent to the right hemisphere of the brain but since the corpus callosum is severed, it is unable to share what it sees with the left hemisphere which controls speech comprehension. The result is that the patient is unable to say what it is exactly they see yet the information is still stored in their brain. Later when asked to draw what they saw with their left hand (which is controlled by the right side of their brain which "saw" the image) they draw similar images to what was in their field of vision. When asked to explain what they were drawing, the subjects often made up stories.

This video was shown in class and does a very good job explaining how the experiments work.

What I took away from these studies was that the little voice in our head isn't what's really in control. It is simply rationalizing and explaining what is going on in the other parts of our brain which are really making the decisions.

Here is a link where you can play a split-brain game!

5 Years From Now

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The concept I will remember most 5 years from now is definitely classical conditioning. This video explains classical conditioning:

This article gives several real world examples of classical conditioning, but the one I'm going to remember most is how it's used in advertising. As someone who is going into retail and the apparel industry, I find advertising for clothing to be very interesting. It seems like the most popular way to advertise clothing is to advertise it with sex. Advertising the product with sex works because sex elicits a good feeling, and so sex would be the unconditioned stimulus and feeling good would be the unconditioned response. Pairing sex with apparel would cause the apparel to become a conditioned stimulus and feeling good to be a conditioned response.

guess.jpg I'm going to remember classical conditioning 5 years from now because at that time I'll be making decisions about how to advertise my own apparel. Right now I don't believe using classical conditioning to advertise is very ethical, because the product isn't selling itself and consumers are almost being tricked into purchasing some things. This idea has been reinforced in my Retail Merchandising course, though it's never been explained in terms of classical conditioning. Classical conditioning in advertising is huge in the industry I'm planning on working in, but no matter what happens in the future, I'll still encounter it everyday while seeing and hearing advertisements all around me.

Five years from now...

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Five years from now, I think I will remember a lot of different psychology concepts, although there are definitely two thought that I believe will stick with me the longest. The first one being classical conditioning. I know this sounds silly, but I will honestly never forget this concept because of the funny clip of this concept featured in The Office. I talked about this concept in my first blog. This just proves how powerful social media can be when it comes to education. I will forever member Dwight, Jim, and the Altoids and what it means to classically condition someone. The second concept I will always remember is one we just learned about, which is conformity. I found the videos of the men in elevator fascinating. It really proves how eager we are to conform to what others are doing out of fear of being an outsider. I think that this concept can be found everywhere and everyday, and I hope that someday people learn that is okay to be your own person! Conformity is something that we each have control over.

Obedience: are people sheep?

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I think that five years from now I will remember the studies about obedience, especially the one conducted by Stanley Milgram. Before explaining why this psychological concept is important to me, I want to remind you what was this experiment.

dd_manwhoshocked.jpgIn the 1960s Milgram wanted to know if people in his study were able to deliver increasingly painful electric shocks to another partcipant when this one was giving wrong answers. In fact the "learner" was a confederate, and he did not receive any shocks during the experiment. He only simulated pain. However the "teacher" did not know that, and Milgram was interested to know until which voltage level the participant was able to go before stopping the experiment. The results were pretty surprising: they showed that people went far in the experiment, which means that even if their actions caused pain they continued because a higher authority (the man who conducted the experiment) told them to do so.

To me this experiment is one of the most important in the field of psychology. Indeed it shows how people react when they face a dilemma concerning an order: should I follow the order, even if it is stupid or dangerous, or should I disobey and take the risk to be punished by the person who gave me the order. This study can for instance help to explain the behavior of the German citizens during World War II.

An article which appeared in the New York Times tells us that this study is still accurate today. Indeed a postdoctoral student at Ohio State University conducted almost the same experiment than Milgram, and got the same results. So we have to be careful and stay conscious that, even if we are well-intentioned citizens, there is still a risk that we do bad things under a higher authority or a group pressure. One movie, The Wave, illustrate it well, as well as a french TV show that exactly reproduced the Milgram study.

Encode It

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MPj04227060000[1]1.jpg Five years from now the concept in psychology I think I will remember is encoding. Encoding is the process used to get information into our memory banks (Lilienfeld 255).

As individuals we have the opportunity to learn and remember what seems like an infinite amount of information however, a lot of what I seemed to have learned in the past has been forgotten. This is because I failed in encode much of the information I thought I was learning.

Instead, I tried to memorize ideas as an alternative to spending time to understand the reasons and ideas behind the information; I did not put my full attention into what I was being taught. In addition, I have not made full use of mnemonics, learning aids, strategies and devices that enhance information recall (255).

Since learning more on the process of memory, I have began, and will continue, to attend to information fully when it is something I want to remember, even after the date my professors test my knowledge on the information. I can already see improvement in classes I take time to really grasp the information. And, the more I practice, the better I get.

I regret not taking the time to make up more mnemonics because I often fail to remember a lot of historic events when alternatively I can remember all the countries in Africa because in sixth grade my teacher taught my class a song using them.
If I remember encoding, and make use of the tools that improve it, I will find myself recalling much more in the future.



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For some people, letter A always appears red even though it is printed in black; color red can has a smooth, milky "taste", and their favorite music "looks" like a big firework show... These people (perhaps 1 out of 2000 of us) who process a cross-sensory view of world are characterized as having the synesthesia

Some might think that synesthesia is an mental disorder, but in fact, most people with synesthesia are living normal lives. Because most kinds of synesthesia do not interfere with normal daily functioning, it is not classified as a form of mental diseases. In stead, synesthesia can sometimes introduce rather pleasant or "inspiring" experiences. Here is a picture demonstrating what a synaesthete sees when hearing the word "Saturday" hearings_sat.jpg

Synesthesia may become a source for inspirations. There are accounts from many musicians and artists which stated that their intermingled senses had help them greatly in producing creative ideas and artworks. And the statement of Nobel prize winner Richard Feynman reflects his synesthesia experience: "When I see equations, I see the letters in colours -- I don't know why. As I'm talking, I see vague pictures of Bessel functions from Jahnke and Emde's book, with light-tan j's, slightly violet-bluish n's, and dark brown x's flying around. And I wonder what the hell it must look like to the students." But whether and how the synesthesia experience might have affected Richard Feynman's achievement is not clear, other factors such as diligent work may have played more important roles in his achievements.

I am particularly interesting in the question of whether people with synesthesia can utilize their cross-sensory ability to enhance their cognitive and memory abilities. Synesthesia may give people extra "hooks" in minds on which to hang new information: for the grapheme-color synaesthetes, they can easily spot particular objects from their surroundings, such as number 2s mixed with a host of 5s because the 2s have different color than 5s. And as a grapheme synesthete says, "When I read, about five words around the exact one I'm reading are in color. It's also the only way I can spell. In elementary school I remember knowing how to spell the word 'priority' [with an "i" rather than an "e"] because ... an 'e' was out of place in that word because 'e's were yellow and didn't fit." By remembering particular letters in word have certain colors, grapheme-color synesthetes may have found a short-cut to master spelling tasks.
In much the same way, people with other kinds of synesthesia may have the potentials to become efficient learners under proper guidance and training.

Sources: 12/2/2011 12/2/2011

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