Reasoning Critically - the Stanley Milgram Experiment

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After learning about the Stanley Milgram experiment, I found myself questioning why and how the majority of the subjects that participated in the experiment were willing to inflict apparent pain and injury on an innocent person, and found myself curious as to how I would react should I but put in the same situation. I believe that the most significant reason for this disturbing absence of critical thinking and moral responsibility is because the subjects involved in the experiment were blinded by authority and trapped in Stage 1 of Knowing: The Garden of Eden stage. The subjects were being tested on their responsiveness to authority and, in most cases, the subjects accepted their task given by the authority and performed atrocious acts by following orders, even though the authority in this experiment was simply an actor posing as a scientist by wearing a white lab coat. Although this experiment was staged, the point of this test was to see whether the teachers (subjects) would put a stop to the experiment or continue to the point where they would administer seemingly lethal electric shocks to the learner simply because it is what the scientist has told them to do. This experiment demonstrates how authority can negatively influence one’s critical thinking skills. In many cases during this experiment, the subjects were assigned their role and accepted the information given by authority without question or criticism, thus falling into the Stage 1 category of knowing. These subjects allowed themselves to believe that, “anyone who disagrees with the authorities must be wrong, including themselves.” They have forgotten the value of equally, in the sense that everyone is of an equal value and, although the man in the white coat may appear to have authority, he is just as equal as them in terms of human rights. By: Elizabeth Black
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