Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Contesting the “nature” of conformity: what Milgram and Zimbardo's studies really show

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Alexander Haslam ; Stephen David Reicher

School/Research organisations


Understanding of the psychology of tyranny is dominated by classic studies from the 1960s and 1970s: Milgram's research on obedience to authority and Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment. Supporting popular notions of the banality of evil, this research has been taken to show that people conform passively and unthinkingly to both the instructions and the roles that authorities provide, however malevolent these may be. Recently, though, this consensus has been challenged by empirical work informed by social identity theorizing. This suggests that individuals' willingness to follow authorities is conditional on identification with the authority in question and an associated belief that the authority is right.


Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1001426
JournalPLoS Biology
Issue number11
StatePublished - 20 Nov 2012

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Core disgust is attenuated by ingroup relations

    Reicher, S. D., Templeton, A., Neville, F. G., Ferrari, L. & Drury, J. 22 Feb 2016 In : Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Early Edition

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. "Something that unites us all”: understandings of St. Patrick’s Day parades as representing the Irish national group

    O'Donnell, A., Muldoon, O., Blaylock, D., Stevenson, C., Bryan, D., Reicher, S. D. & Pehrson, S. D. 11 Jan 2016 In : Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology. 26, 1, p. 61-74 14 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. Evolutionary trade-offs underlie the multi-faceted virulence of Staphylococcus aureus

    Holden, M. & 20 others Laabei, M., Uhlemann, A-C., Lowy, F. D., Austin, E. D., Yokoyama, M., Ouadi, K., Feil, E., Thorpe, H. A., Williams, B., Perkins, M., Peacock, S. J., Clarke, S. R., Dordel, J., Votintseva, A. A., Bowden, R., Crook, D. W., Young, B. C., Wilson, D. J., Recker, M. & Massey, R. C. 2 Sep 2015 In : PLoS Biology. 13, 9, 21 p., e1002229

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. An estimate of the total DNA in the biosphere

    Landenmark, H. K. E., Forgan, D. H. & Cockell, C. S. 11 Jun 2015 In : PLoS Biology. 13, 6, p. 1-10 10 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Mother and offspring in conflict: why not?

    Úbeda, F. & Gardner, A. 18 Mar 2015 In : PLoS Biology. 13, 3, 5 p., e1002084

    Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

  4. Ancient and novel small RNA pathways compensate for the loss of piRNAs in multiple independent nematode lineages

    Sarkies, P., Selkirk, M. E., Jones, J. T., Blok, V., Boothby, T., Goldstein, B., Hanelt, B., Ardila-Garcia, A., Fast, N. M., Schiffer, P. M., Kraus, C., Taylor, M. J., Koutsovoulos, G., Blaxter, M. L. & Miska, E. A. 10 Feb 2015 In : PLoS Biology. 13, 2, 20 p., e1002061

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. Epidermal growth factor signalling controls Myosin II planar polarity to orchestrate convergent extension movements during Drosophila tubulogenesis

    Saxena, A., Denholm, B., Bunt, S., Bischoff, M., VijayRaghavan, K. & Skaer, H. 2 Dec 2014 In : PLoS Biology. 12, 12, 17 p., e1002013

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. PLoS One (Various)

    Sophie Caroline Smout (Reviewer), 20112012

    Activity: Ongoing editorial work / peer reviewPeer review of manuscripts

ID: 38007745