Human Experimentation

Topics: Stanford prison experiment, Human subject research, Milgram experiment Pages: 6 (1960 words) Published: April 20, 2008
Human Experimentation
Throughout the ages, many experiments have been performed on willing and unwilling participants. Some experiments happened to be non-harming, while others caused much distress, pain, and sometimes death to the subjects. Human experimentation today has greatly transitioned due to past experiences for the better of the participants. Some of the past experiments that brought upon the changes in laws and standards were the Little Albert Experiment, Stanford Prison Experiment, human vivisection, and the Tuskegee Experiments. Safety has become the major concept in the laws for human experimentation due because of many experiments in the fields of medical and psychological studies. With the standards in experimentation becoming stricter and safer, experiments and outcomes will only become better for our world, possibly coming up with cures or better understanding of the human body.

The Little Albert Experiment was performed by John Watson. The experiment was a psychological experiment that was used to acknowledge classical conditioning in humans (Cicarelli and Meyer 11). Cicarelli, Meyer, and Milgram all believed that certain processes in an experiment would make a subject mentally change. Cicarelli and Meyer add on to this notion by stating “the experiment attempted to show that a child would become afraid of a non-fearful object if accompanied with an object that struck fear to the child” (11). Watson used a child named Albert, and he presented Albert with a white rat. At first Albert was not afraid, and then Watson used a loud noise to scare the child. After a few repetitions of the act, Albert became afraid of the white rat without the noise accompanying its presence. Later, Watson presented Albert with other white animals and object, and Albert was afraid of all them. Overall, the experiment was a success given the thesis John Watson was attempting to prove. Another great example of a psychology-based experiment was the Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971. Able-minded students were asked to volunteer for an experiment that paid fifteen dollars a day. Many people applied for a small, select few were taken. They were randomly assigned to be guards or prisoners in the experiment that took place in a made-up prison in the basement of the psychology building of Stanford University. The study was planned to last two weeks while the experimenter observed the reactions and outcome of the experiment. The experimenter, Philip Zimbardo, created the hypothesis “prisoners and guards “learn” to become compliant and authoritarian” (Zimbardo 389).

Many of the prisoners suffered psychological harm due to the guards becoming sadistic. Building upon Zimbardo’s thesis, Milgram states “for many people, obedience is a deeply ingrained behavior tendency, indeed a potent impulse overriding training in ethics, sympathy, and moral conduct” (359). The statement built upon Zimbardo’s thesis because he believed that prisoners and guards would fall into their roles. The guards became rather sadistic, while the prisoners began obeying the guards’ every order. Prisoners admitted that their life was forever changed, and some realized the evil normal people could perform if given the right conditions. One of the guards felt like he was in a prison that was self made. He concluded the experiment expressing his feeling about the experiment with this quote: What made the experience most depressing for me was the fact that we were continually called upon to act in a way that was contrary to what I really feel inside. I don’t feel like I’m the type of person that would be a guard, just constantly giving out [orders]… and forcing people to do things, and pushing and lying – it just didn’t seem like me, and to continually keep up and put on almost a prison that you create yourself – you get into it, and it becomes almost the definition you make of yourself, it almost becomes like walls, and you want to break out and you want just to be...
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