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Department ofPsychology

Jerry Burger

Jerry Burger


Educational Background

Ph.D., University of Missouri
Social Psychology

Research and Representative Publications

I conducted a partial replication of Stanley Milgram's famous obedience studies that allowed for useful comparisons with the original investigations while protecting the well-being of participants. We found obedience rates in 2006 only slightly lower than what Milgram found 45 years earlier.

The research was featured in the January 3, 2007 broadcast of ABC News' Primetime.

Purchase a copy of the broadcast

You can read some reactions to the research here:

Burger, J. M.
(2015). Obedience. In K. Williams, S. Harkins & J. M. Burger (Eds.), Handbook of social influence. New York: Oxford University Press.

Burger, J. M. (2014). Situational features in Milgram’s experiment that kept his participants shocking. Journal of Social Issues, 70, 489-500. doi: 10.1111/josi.12073 [PDF]

Burger, J. M., Girgis, Z.M.,& Manning, C.C. (2011). In their own words: Explaining obedience to authority through an examination of participants' comments. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 2, 460-466. [PDF]

Burger, J. M. (2009). Replicating Milgram: Would people still obey today? American Psychologist, 64, 1-11.


My research on compliance has examined sequential-request techniques and variables that increase or decrease agreement to a request.

Burger, J. M., & Caputo, D. (2015). The low-ball compliance procedure: A meta-analysis. Social Influence, 10, 214-220. doi: 10.1080/15534510.2015.1049203 [PDF]

Burger, J. M. & Caldwell, D.C.(2011). When opportunity knocks: The effect of a perceived unique opportunity on compliance. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 14, 671-680. [PDF]

Burger, J. M., Sanchez, J., Imberi, J. E., & Grande, L. R. (2009). The norm of reciprocity as an internalized social norm: Returning favors even when no one finds out. Social Influence, 4, 11-17. [PDF]

Burger, J. M., Hornisher J., Martin, V. E., Newman, G., & Pringle, S. (2007). The pique technique: Overcoming mindlessness or shifting heuristics? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 37, 2086-2096. [PDF]

Burger, J. M., Messian, N., Patel, S., del Prado, A., & Anderson, C. (2004). What a coincidence! The effects of incidental similarity on compliance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 30, 35-43. [PDF]

Burger, J. M., Soroka, S., Gonzago, K., Murphy, E., & Somervell, E. (2001). The effect of fleeting attraction on compliance to requests. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 27, 1578-1586. [PDF]

Burger, J. M. (1999). The foot-in-the-door compliance procedure: A multiple-process analysis and review. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 3, 303-325. [PDF]

Perception of and Motivation for Personal Control

Decades ago, I developed the Desirability of Control Scale to measure individual differences in the extent to which people are motivated to feel in control of the events in their lives. I have conducted extensive research on this concept as well as on the effects of increases and decreases in the amount of personal control individuals perceive they have.

Burger, J. M. (2017). And the wisdom to know the difference: Locus of control and desire for control. In F. J. Infurna & J. W. Reich (Eds.), Perceived control: Theory, research, and practice in the first 50 years. New York: Oxford University Press.

Burger, J. M., & Lynn, A. L. (2005). Superstitious behavior among American and Japanese professional baseball players. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 27, 71-76. [PDF]

Burger, J. M. (1992). Desire for control: Personality, social and clinical perspectives. New York: Plenum.

Burger, J. M. (1989). Negative reactions to increases in perceived personal control. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 246-256. [PDF]

Social Norms

I have conducted research on the effects of descriptive norms (i.e., what other people do) on a number of behaviors. These behaviors include food choices, binge drinking, and everyday health behaviors.

Burger, J. M., Bender, T. J., Day, L., DeBolt, J. A., Guthridge, L., How, H. W., Meyer, M., Russell, K. A., & Taylor, S. (2015). The power of one: The relative influence of helpful and selfish models. Social Influence, 10, 77-84. doi: 10.1080/15534510.2014.926291 [PDF]

Burger, J. M. & Shelton, M. (2011) Changing everyday health behaviors through descriptive norm manipulations. Social influence, 6, 69-77. [PDF]

Burger, J. M., LaSalvia, C. T., Hendricks, L.A., Mehdipour, T., &Neudeck, E. M. (2011). Partying before the party gets started: The effects of descriptive norms on pre-gaming behavior. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 33, 220-227. [PDF]

Burger, J. M., Bell, H., Harvey, K., Johnson, J., Stewart, C., Dorian, K., & Swedroe, M. (2010). Nutritious or delicious? The effect of descriptive norm information on food choice. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology. [PDF]

Returning Home

My book "Returning Home: Reconnecting with our Childhoods" (Rowman-Littlefield) describes my research on people who visit childhood homes. That research finds that millions of Americans have made a trip specifically to see the places that comprised the landscape of their childhood. They visit homes they once lived in, as well as other significant places from their past, to reconnect with the person they once were. The visits are often emotional and sometimes therapeutic. The book describes the reasons people make these trips and the experiences they encounter. You can obtain more information about the book and the research at

Social Influence Special Issue

I served as the guest editor for a special issue of Social Influence, “Individual Differences and Social Influence.” The articles selected for this volume demonstrate how social influence researchers can obtain a greater understanding of the phenomena they study by incorporating individual difference variables into their research. Click here for more information about the special issue.

Personality Textbook
Personality by Jerry Burger

My undergraduate textbook, Personality, is now in its tenth edition (2019, Cengage). The book is organized to reflect my belief that the study of personality should not be limited to either the traditional theories approach or to a strict empirical presentation. Rather, I have maintained from the first edition that a full understanding of personality requires an examination of theory and research. After an introductory chapter and a chapter on personality research methods, the book is divided into seven sections. Each section reflects a different approach to understanding personality — Freudian, Neo-Freudian, Trait, Biological, Humanistic, Behavioral/Social Learning, and Cognitive.

Personality Scales

Preference for Solitude Scale (DOC)

Desirability of Control Scale (DOC)


Jerry Burger is also a fiction writer. For more information about his novel, The Shadows of 1915, and his short stories, visit Jerry's website.

In the News

May 8, 2023

Jerry Burger joins Tim O'Brien to talk about landmark experiments on human obedience conducted by Stanley Milgram. Listen to the Shaping Opinion podcast.

November 30, 2022

Jerry Burger examines the strong emotional connection to their childhood homes some Baltimoreans have, particularly the house they lived between the ages of 5 and 12.

December 9, 2019

Jerry Burger was mentioned in Scientific American for his work replicating the infamous Milgram Experiment while taking ethical precautions.