This Report Aims To:
Summarize Milgram’s ‘Obedience to Authority’ study
Identify the findings; specifically the moral and ethical issues raised
Recognise how Milgram’s research can be relevant within the medical profession
Stanley Milgram (1933-1984), born in NYC and from Jewish heritage is most famous for his ‘Study of Obedience’ (1961). Having been largely influenced by the horrors of WWII, Milgram wanted to explore ‘what makes people do evil things’? (Baynard 2012:63). He devised a controlled lab experiment, using male volunteers, which would place participants in a moral dilemma. Participants, ‘teachers’ were to administer electric shocks to a ‘learner’ upon the result of an incorrect answer to a word association task; throughout an experimenter informed the ‘teacher’ it was imperative the task was completed. Nineteen variations of the original experiment were carried out; two ‘experimenters giving contradictory instructions, varied ‘learner’ and ‘teacher’ proximity, ‘experimenter’ being replaced by an ordinary man, being just a few examples. The importance of executing these variations lies in the interesting results which they produced.
Ethical issues were raised after the completion of the study due to the nonconformity to ‘The Nuremburg Code’ (1946) - this is a set of ethical codes which govern Psychology. It was contended, the participants did not retain ‘the right to withdraw’ as they were persistently told by the experimenter that they must continue and that the welfare of the participants was not considered- some of the participants showed tension and emotional turmoil. Milgram’s defense argued that the instructions from the experimenter were essential, the whole study was based on the participants’ refusal to continue, and that follow up surveys indicated 84% of participants were glad to have been a part of the experiment.
Why is Milgrams Study Relevant?