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Social Theory. Sort of. Public Domain Images from the Library of Congress.

Posted by Laurie Frost on December 12, 2011

A reader asked for help finding public domain images of the following:

  • Milgram’s obedience research
  • Asch’s conformity research
  • Bandura’s Bobo Doll studies
  • Sherif’s Robbers Cave Study

So far, I’ve had no luck. I did a bit of reading. These are pioneering studies in individual and group psychology. Although the researchers were associated with US universities that I’m sure receive Federal funding , it isn’t like with Federal employees whose photography is performed as part (or all) of their job. If my reader’s project is for educational purposes, his use might meet Fair Use criteria, but I wouldn’t hazard a guess.

Anyway, I’ve no background in psychology, but I found these studies intriguing (see Wikipedia). Milgram’s is one that I didn’t recognize my name, but it has been the basis for several films or TV show episodes. Subjects were told that they were to deliver increasingly intense (15-watt intervals) electric shocks to a person in the adjacent room whenever that person failed to answer a question correctly. No shocks were actually delivered, but the subject, who the researchers casually mentioned had a heart condition, would cry out and bang on the wall and then go silent. About 65% of participants didn’t stop until the very end, when they thought they had delivered three 450-watt jolts — a fatal level. A Dar Williams song, “Buzzer,” summarizes the experiment:

I’m feeling sorry for this guy that I pressed to shock

He gets the answers wrong I have to up the watts

And he begged me to stop but they told me to go

I pressed the buzzer.

Asch’s conformity research wasn’t dramatic, but it did show that people will go along with the majority, even when they know the majority opinion is wrong. Bandura’s Bobo Doll studies showed how young children will imitate the aggressive behavior of an adult model. Bandura showed a group of kids a film of an adult screaming at and smacking what I’d call a Bozo inflatable clown doll. Then when they had playtime, surprise, in the playroom were several Bozos, and the kids treated these toys as the adult had.
Muzafer Sherif’s Robbers’ Cave Experiment was sort of like a Survivor series. He divided boys into two groups, and made scarce or desirable resources available only to the group who won competitions. The groups became increasingly hostile toward one another.
Back to our subject, public domain images. Failing to find any using the researchers’ or experiments’ names, I started looking for ones that simply illustrated  observational learning, conformity, obedience, or aggression. All are from the Library of Congress. LoC Summary means a direct copying of the Library of Congress’s summary notes.

Here are a few on modeling or observational learning, which might fit in with the Bobo doll experiment.

The two paths–What will the girl become, LC-DIG-ppmsca-02926 (black) and LC-DIG-ppmsca-02925 (white, right).
LoC Summary: Image of an African American girl of seven years old [a seven year old white girl], flanked by two columns of illustrations showing on left: the girl reading bad literature, flirting, drinking with men, and as an outcast, and on right: the girl studying, in church, as a mother, and as a grandmother.
Illus. in: Golden thoughts on chastity and procreation / John William Gibson. Toronto, Ont., Naperville, Ill. : J. L. Nichols & co., [1903], between pp. 58 and 59.

LC-DIG-nclc-04935, By Lewis Hines. [1913 or 1914?]
Lynch mobs could illustrate conformity to a group even when at least some involved know that what they are doing is wrong.
Start the recall of judges with this one. By Will Crawford.Illus. in Puck, v. 71, no. 1825 (1912 February 21). LC-DIG-ppmsca-27817.LoC summary: Illustration shows the ghostly figure of a manic-looking man, labeled “Judge Lynch,” carrying a book labeled “Lynch Law,” and a lighted torch, hovering over a procession of people. The procession is led by three solid citizens followed by farmers, unruly elements, and finally a long line of regular citizens including women, who look back at a small column of smoke in the distance — presumably a lynching. One of the unruly men shoots a dog. “Judge Lynch” was the personification of the practice, frequently found in the South, of executing African Americans suspected of crimes, without the benefit of trial. In the second decade of the Twentieth Century, Progressives advocated various reforms designed to circumvent the state governments viewed as the tools of entrenched interests. The Recall was intended to allow the citizenry to directly vote officials out of office. The cartoonist suggests that this first be used to abolish the practice of lynching. (Source: LCCN 2005676912 and LJR).

This is tangentially related to Milgram’s experiment — at least it involves learning and shocks.LoC summary: Teachers shock students at George Washington U. Washington, D.C., Aug. 2. Public speaking students at G.W. U. are only too well acquainted with the shocking machine, invented by Dr. Willard Hayes Yeager, Head of the department, to take the “ahs” “ers” and “ums” out of their diction. He is shown putting on the shocker to Jane Hampton, 17. When the student makes a mistake the professor at the other end of the room, notifies her by a gentle electric shock, 8/2/38. LC-DIG-hec-25026

And in appreciation of its irony, I offer this final commentary.

                                           LC-USZC2-5627. Federal Art Project, between 1936 and 1941
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