Assessing Obedience

Topics: Stanford prison experiment, Psychology, Milgram experiment Pages: 5 (1769 words) Published: September 12, 2010
Obedience is a characteristic ingrained in every person. No matter who a person is, there is always a more authoritative figure that they must obey to. Stanley Milgram, a psychologist at Yale University, conducted experiments that tested obedience towards authority. These experiments were conducted in 1963 at Yale University. The experiments Milgram performed gained many different reactions from people. Two authors that wrote their thoughts on the experiments done by Milgram are Diana Baumrind and Richard Herrnstein. Diana Baumrind, who wrote the “Review of Stanley Milgram’s Experiments on Obedience”, believes that the experiments Milgram conducted were not necessary and should not have been conducted unless the subject knew the harms that could occur after the experiment was done. Baumrind is a psychologist, who was employed at the Institute of Human Development at the University of California, Berkley at the time that Milgram’s experiment was performed. Richard Herrnstein has a different belief. Herrnstein, the author of the article “Review of Stanley Milgram’s Experiments on Obedience”, believes Milgram’s experiments were well done and show great potential of what we are able to do in the future. Milgram’s experiment is valid because it was conducted in an appropriate setting, there was minimal psychological harm done, and it contained valuable results.

The experiments conducted by Milgram consisted of two different subjects. The first subject was named the “teacher”. The teacher’s role to read lists of word pairs to the second subject. The second subject was named the “learner”. The learner’s role was to remember and recite the second word in the word pair when he was given the first one. The learner was strapped in a miniature version of an electric chair and was told they would receive electric shocks (given by the teacher) intensifying from fifteen to four hundred fifty volts each time they got a word pair incorrect. Milgram explained to the teacher that the experiment was to test if pain had an impact on learning. This was not the true experiment though. Although it was not revealed to the teacher, the learner was really just an actor and was not being harmed in any way. The true experiment, says Milgram in his article, was to test obedience to authority.

Before this experiment was conducted Milgram sought out predictions from other people in addition to his own. The predictions, which were made by Milgram as well as, “psychiatrists, college sophomores, and middle-class adults”(Milgram 320), stated that very few, if any, people would “obey” the experimenter. These predictions proved to be inaccurate and, in turn, made the results seem astonishing. Milgram’s results from the experiment conducted on Yale undergrads showed that twenty-five out of the forty people tested obeyed the experimenter through the end. Having people unsatisfied with the results, Milgram tested again on another group of people. The people that were tested the second time were “ordinary” people, compared to the “highly aggressive bunch”(Milgram 320) that the Yale students were said to be. These ordinary people ranged from professionals to unemployed people. The results in the second experiment had roughly the same results, stated Milgram. He said that in his second experiment sixty percent of the people were obedient to the end. His results demonstrated that people are very likely to be obedient towards authoritative persons.

It has been questioned whether the setting could have or did affect the experiment. If the setting were in a more comfortable place people would have not been as obedient; this is the opinion that some people share. Other people believe that the setting would not change the experiment or its results. Baumrind believes that the setting did in fact cause the experiment to be inaccurate. She explains that since it was an “unfamiliar” setting, it caused the subjects to be more obedient. She sets up...
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