(Original post by crazyhandsome)
which psychological theories help to explain why the subjects conformed in the milgram experiment
Obedience because the white lab coat, scientific equipment and lab setting made the authority seem legitimate.
Therefore, you could say that classical conditioning comes into it because participants have developed an association between this kind of setting and the expectation of people to obey e.g. the setting resembles a hospital and people generally obey the authority of doctors so with a similar setting, they might obey the authority because it resembles a legitimate situation.
Operant conditioning may also come into it because verbal prods were used such as 'It is absolutely essential that you continue.' This breaks the ethical guideline of right to withdraw because it should have been made clear that participants can withdraw from the study without penalty or scorn at any time. Therefore, as a consequence of the prods, participants may have conformed because they fear punishment if they end the experiment.
Participants conformed in the Milgram experiment for two main reasons - gradual commitment and agentic shift.
With gradual commitment the demands of the authority figure start small and reasonable then gradually increase to unreasonable and beyond. Milgram's participants moved gradually from a reasonable 15 volt shock to 450 volts in 15 volt increments.
The agentic shift occurs when a person moves from being an autonomous individual who takes responsibility for their own actions to being an agent for the authority figure. As an agent, they are taking no responsibility and all blame lies with the authority figure.