A central concept among Henry A. Murray’s theories is the idea of multiple components of personality—the global personality’s composition as a collection of subsystems, any one of which may become temporarily regnant. Intellectual and literary antecedents for this conceptualization can be identified, but Murray’s responsiveness to such ideas is likely to have had more personal origins. Certain aspects of his developmental history, including his relationships with significant others, his visual problems, and a rapid succession of occupational identities in his early career, appear to have sensitized him to theoretical and methodological issues neglected by theorists with dissimilar backgrounds.

Personality Characteristics Associated with Obedience and Defiance toward Authoritative Command

Forty adult males, half having obeyed and half having defied authoritative commands to give high-voltage shocks to a fellow volunteer in a realistic experimental situation, were administered personality tests and questionnaires several months later. Obedient and defiant Ss showed little differentiation on the MMPI, but differed significantly on the California F Scale (p<.003). Significant attitudinal differences were displayed toward own father, experimenter, experimental confederate, sponsoring university, willingness to shoot at men in wartime, and other concepts, in patterns somewhat similar to "authoritarian personalities." Experimental validation of personality differences previously reported in association with measures of authoritarianism was thus tentatively demonstrated. Exceptions to authoritarian patterns were noted.

Obedience as Personal Response: The Role of Individual Differences

Obedience is…

[Originally published as Chapter 4c of Alan C. Elms, Social Psychology and Social Relevance (Boston: Little, Brown, 1964)]

Obedience is a curse. That is what makes Germans.

— Gertrude Stein, Yes Is for a Very Young Man

The forty volunteers in each of Milgram’s experimental conditions were quite similar to every other forty volunteers in age, sex, and general occupational category. This sameness of certain individual variables, and the randomness of others, made it possible for Milgram to draw his conclusions about situational variables. If he’d used forty Yale sophomores in the Touch-Proximity condition, and forty middle-aged Rotarians for the Remote Feedback condition, he could hardly have said anything about behavioral differences between groups – whether they were situationally determined, or determined by any or all of the ways in which Yale sophomores differ from Rotarians.