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This is one of a series of excerpts from older articles put online by John Ray as a public service. The articles concerned are in general otherwise available only by special request to a University or other major library.

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J. Personality & Social Psychology, 1972, 22 (5), 287-295

IS THE SUBJECT'S PERSONALITY OR THE EXPERIMENTAL SITUATION A BETTER PREDICTOR OF A SUBJECT'S WILLINGNESS TO ADMINISTER SHOCK TO A VICTIM?



KNUD S. LARSEN, DON COLEMAN, JIM FORBES, AND ROBERT JOHNSON

Oregon State University

This study investigates the willingness of subjects to shock a victim within a learning-study paradigm. The predictor variables were a set of personality scales and several experimental conditions (conformity, model, female learner, and high model). The results indicate no relationship between the personality scales and behavior, but significant effects of the experimental conditions in producing accentuated shock intensities are indicated. A survey carried out, which described the study, showed large underestimates of shock levels as predicted by fellow students. The subjects themselves underestimated the shock levels, suggesting a possible guilt-reduction mechanism. One implication is that our society tends to produce individuals who act contrary to their conscience when faced with even mildly compelling situations.





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