If Hitler Asked You to Electrocute a Stranger, Would You? Probably

Topics: Appeal to emotion, Stanford prison experiment, Milgram experiment Pages: 3 (1050 words) Published: March 30, 2007
It is only natural to dismiss the idea of our own personal flaws, for who with a healthy sense of self wanders in thoughts of their own insufficiency? The idea of hypocrisy is one that strikes a sensitive nerve to most, and being labeled a hypocrite is something we all strive to avoid. Philip Meyer takes this emotion to the extreme by examining a study done by a social psychologist, Stanley Milgram, involving the effects of discipline. In the essay, "If Hitler Asked You to Electrocute a Stranger, Would You? Probably", Meyer takes a look at Milgram's study that mimics the execution of the Jews (among others) during World War II by placing a series of subjects under similar conditions of stress, authority, and obedience. The main theme of this experiment is giving subjects the impression that they are shocking an individual for incorrectly answering a list of questions, but perhaps more interesting is the results that occur from both ends of the research. Meyer's skill in this essay is using both the logical appeal of facts and statistics as well as the pathetic appeal to emotion to get inside the reader's mind in order to inform and dissuade us about our own unscrupulous actions.

At first Milgram believed that the idea of obedience under Hitler during the Third Reich was appalling. He was not satisfied believing that all humans were like this. Instead, he sought to prove that the obedience was in the German gene pool, not the human one. To test this, Milgram staged an artificial laboratory "dungeon" in which ordinary citizens, whom he hired at $4.50 for the experiment, would come down and be required to deliver an electric shock of increasing intensity to another individual for failing to answer a preset list of questions. Meyer describes the object of the experiment "is to find the shock level at which you disobey the experimenter and refuse to pull the switch" (Meyer 241). Here, the author is paving the way into your mind by introducing the idea of reluctance...
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