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In the early 1960’s, Yale university psychologist Stanley Milgram published” The Perils of Obedience,” in which he reported the result of a series of social psychology experiments he conducted to test the various individuals’ levels of obedience to authority. Milgram devised his experiment to answer the question, “Was it that Eichmann and his accomplices in the holocaust had mutual intent in at least with regard to the goals of the Holocaust?”
Milgram obtained the participants in the Milgram experiment running an ad in a newspaper to participate in the experiment. In exchange for their participation, people would be paid $4.50. Milgram developed a shock generator, the generator was marked with switches with levels that started at thirty volts and gradually increasing to 450 volts. The switches where also labeled light shock, moderate shock, and danger: severe shock and the last set of switches where labeled “XXX”. Each participant took the role of the “teacher” who would deliver a shock to the “learner” which was an Irish-American who was trained to participate in this experiment. The experimenter told the “teacher” and the “learner” that they would be participating in an study that helped the memory and learning in different situations. While the “Teacher” believed, he was delivering a shock to the “learner”. The “learner” was actually pretending to be shocked and the yells were from a recording in which the “student” would hear the “learner” plead to be released or even complain about a heart condition. Once the volt level reached 300, the “learner” hit the wall and demanded to be release. After this level the “leaner” refused to answer any question. The person, running the experiment instructed the “teacher” to treat the silence as an incorrect response and to give the next voltage level up on the generator to the “learner”. Most of the “teachers” in the experiment asked if they should continue with the experiment. The experimenter told the “teacher” to please continue, the study requires that you continue. The experimenter egged the “teacher” to continue with the experiment and told them they have “no other choice”.
Milgram’s definition of the “Essence of Obedience” is that a person views himself as the instrument for carrying another person wishes, he therefore no longer saw himself as accountable for the actions carried out by himself. The most common justification of the “teacher” was he performed these acts under the direct authority of the experimenter. Someone could probably see this as a characteristic of socially organized evil in today’s society.
Although there was several variations in the experiment, Milgram described nineteen variations of his experiment some of which had not been recorded previously. Several experiments varied without delay of the “teacher” and the “learner.” Generally, when the victim’s physical delay was increased, the participant’s compliance decreased. Some “teachers” deceived the experimenter by pretending to press the voltage generator. In variations where the “learner’s” physical delay was closest, the participant has had to physically hold the learners hand on the shock plate, the teachers obedience decreased. Under that condition, a certain percentage of participants completed the experiment a higher level of stress then other. On some of the experiments that depict dilemmas that happens more often in everyday life. Subjects were not ordered to pull the lever at all, but merely to perform an additional task while another person performed the shocks and the other asked the question. In this, type of experiment thirty-seven out of forty participants continued on to the 450- volt level on the generator. They used the excuse that their behavior is that of the responsibility of the man who actually pulled the switch. This adds problem in the typical arrangement in the complex society it is easy to ignore the responsibility, when one is only the intermediate link in the series of action.
In conclusion, this experiment shows that social psychology experiment that Milgram conducted to test the various individuals’ levels of obedience to authority. This was a blind test to see if and when a person would stop inflicting pain to another as they are given commands to continue. The “teacher” being the actual subject and the “learner” being a actor, both were told that they would be involved in a study that test the effects of punishment on learning. Milgram developed a shock generator, the generator was marked with switches with levels that started at thirty volts and gradually increasing to 450 volts. Each participant took the role of the “Teacher” who would deliver a shock to the “learner”. The results through this experiment, Milgram discovered that most people would go against their own decisions of right and wrong to satisfy the requests of an authority figure. Someone could see this as characteristics of socially organized evil in today’s society.
Milgram, Stanley. “The Perils of Obedience.” Writing and reading across the curriculum
Laurence Behrens and Leonard j. Rosen, eds. 10th ed. New York: person long, 2008. 358-372. print
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