Daniel Parks Freshman Studies Term II Critical Analysis and Milgram’s Response Obedience to Authority and the obedience experiments that produced Stanley Milgram’s famous book have produced almost equal amounts of surprise, curiosity and criticism. The criticism of social psychologist John Darley and playwright Dannie Abse are each representative of the general criticism Milgram has received; Darley focuses on whether the study has any relevance to real world events (such as the Holocaust), and Abse focuses on justification of the experiment, i.e. was the study worth doing in spite of the deception employed and its potential harm to the subjects. To Milgram, this criticism demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the goals and implications of the obedience study, to which he has responded by restating the goal of the experiment and explaining its beneficial effects upon the subjects. However, Milgram’s response to Abse-style criticism is weak, and illuminates his obstinacy in defending his experiments. John Darley’s criticism focuses on how the findings of the obedience experiments are applied to historical or real-world situations. He points out many ways in which the behavior of the obedience subjects in Milgram’s study differs drastically from the behavior of many others who commit atrocities: Nazi doctors or concentration camp executioners, for instance (Darley 133-134). However, since Darley’s criticism focuses on the behavioral differences between the obedience study and historical events, Milgram responds in a strong, convincing way. Referring to the process of comparing laboratory studies with real-world situations, Milgram writes, “The problem of generalizing from one to the other does not consist of point-for-point comparison between one and the other... but depends on whether one has reached a correct theoretical understanding of the
relevant process” (Milgram 175). With this in mind, it becomes apparent that the behavior of laboratory...
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