Obedience vs Responsibility

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Obedience and Responsibility
In Stanley Milgram’s, “The Perils of Obedience”, Milgram states “The essence of obedience is that a person comes to view himself as the instrument for carrying out another person’s wishes, and he therefore no longer regards himself as responsible for his actions.” (Milgram 6) Through his experiments he shows how we obey commands against our better judgment. It my belief that we are generally obedient as long as someone else assumes responsibility for the outcome. Therefore, this poses the question; would we be fully obedient if we were held responsible for the outcome?

Milgram’s experiment consists of three roles: the experimenter, the teacher, and the learner. The learner, who is actually an actor, is strapped to an electrocution device is tested on his ability to remember a word of a pair when he hears the first one again. The teacher, the actual test subject, asks the questions and administers a shock ranging from fifteen volts to four hundred fifty volts for incorrect answers. The experimenter is simply there to guide the teacher and record the findings. The experiment begins by the teacher asking the learner questions. When the learner answers incorrectly, the teacher must correct him and administer a shock starting at the lowest voltage. As the experiment continues the voltages increase and so does the reaction from the learner. What begins as minor discomfort on the learner quickly turns into screams of pain and pleas to be released. The experimenter’s job is to record the reactions of the teacher based on learner’s reactions and how long the teacher will continue to go on with the experiment.

The results of the first experiment conducted on a group of Yale undergraduates, showed that about sixty percent of them were fully obedient, even to the maximum voltage. (Milgram 2) A colleague of Milgram’s dismissed the findings stating, “Yale undergraduates are a highly aggressive bunch who steps on each other’s neck on the...
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