Discourse, defiance, and rationality: "Knowledge work" in the " obedience" experiments

Stephen Gibson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


In this article, I present a secondary qualitative analysis of archived audio data from two conditions (" voice-feedback" and " women as subjects" ) in Milgram's experiments. Using a perspective informed by rhetorical and discursive psychologies, I focus on the rhetorical strategies employed by participants. This highlights the use of strategies based around direct invocations of " knowledge." Analysis explores the ways in which participants could use such strategies to challenge the experimenter's definition of the situation in their efforts to extricate themselves from the experiment. Findings are discussed in relation to two ongoing debates in the study of Milgram's experiments: First, the importance of attending to defiance and resistance as much as compliance and obedience; second, the questioning of the status of the phenomena captured in Milgram's studies as necessarily being concerned with " (dis)obedience".

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)424-438
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Social Issues
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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