October 30, 2012
The Milgram Experiment
The Milgram experiment, a study based on a person’s obedience to an authority, was a series of social psychology experiments. These experiments measured the willingness of people to obey a person with authority. During the study, head figures instructed participants to perform acts that would normally conflict with their personal morality. Milgram’s experiments started shortly after the trial of German Nazi Adolf Eichmann in July of 1961. During the trial, Eichmann defended himself by saying that his actions were simply a result of him following the orders of a higher authority. This struck Milgram and proposed a question that needed to be answered: Were Eichmann and the accomplices in the Holocaust just following orders? Or were their actions a representation of their intent?
The question above led Milgram to develop the study to see how far an individual would go in obeying instruction, even if it involved harming another person. Volunteers were enrolled for a lab experiment that dug into learning and ethics. There were 40 males between the ages of 20 to 50 with varied careers. During the experiment there were three roles; a teacher (role of the volunteers), a learner (an actor), and the experimenter. The teacher was asked to administer increasingly sever eclectic shocks to the learner for every incorrect or silent answer given. The shock levels were labeled from 15 to 450 volts. Along with a numerical scale, words such as moderate shock, strong shock, intense shock, danger, and even XXX were added to the scale. The twist is that since the learner was simply an actor, there were no “actual” shocks given, just a verbal response from the learner acting as if the shocks were real. At 75 volts, the leaner began to moan, at 120 they would complain, and at around 285 they let out screams and cries of intense pain. This caused some teachers to not want to continue...
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