The Controversy of Obedience
A classic experiment on the natural obedience of individuals was designed and tested by a Yale psychologist, Stanley Milgram. The test forced participants to either go against their morals or violate authority. For the experiment, two people would come into the lab after being told they were testing memory loss, though only one of them was actually being tested. The unaware individual, called the “teacher” would sit in a separate room, administering memory related questions. If the individual in the other room, the “learner,” gave a wrong answer, the teacher would administer a shock in a series of increasingly painful shocks correlating with the more answers given incorrectly. Milgram set up a recorder that played back screams that matched the different shock levels. Being tested was the teacher’s obedience in administering the pain, going against his/her personal morals. Though this test yielded fascinating results, the use of humans in potentially traumatizing experiments for research is very controversial. Milgram’s findings and beliefs are expressed in his paper, “The Perils of Obedience.” Milgram argues that people are far too obedient to authority without justified reason. According to this view, people follow orders far too easily because they are trained to obey. On the other hand, Diana Baumrind, in her response “Review of Stanley Milgram’s Experiments on Obedience argues that Milgram’s results were poorly tested and are therefore inaccurate. In her words, “The laboratory is not the place to study degree of obedience or suggestibility…since the bar line for these phenomena as found in the laboratory is probably much higher than in most of settings” (WRAC 227). Three issues that emerge in both articles that are important to understanding the controversy are consent, dangers, validity.
In the original experiment, the issue of consent was important to both Milgram and Baumrind for different reasons. For his...
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